Public Safety Communications Network

The Story of the Colorado Statewide Digital Trunked Radio System (DTRS)

In the early 1990’s, the State of Colorado envisioned a continuation project to replace the multiple disparate wireless communications systems operated by state and local governmental agencies. A seven phase project was planned and constructed through partnerships with local municipal, county, tribal, state and federal governmental agencies to make a communications system that would be available to all public safety, public service and other governmental agencies as either their primary radio system or for interoperability only. The resulting system was named the Colorado Statewide Digital Trunked Radio System - or DTRS.

In 1998, the Communication Services team within the Department of Personnel & Administration's (DPA) Division of Information Technologies (DoIT) began implementing the first phases of DTRS. The early phases spanned four years and included participation from the legacy infrastructure partners, Douglas and Jefferson counties. By early 2002, the DTRS coverage footprint spanned the majority of the Denver metro area, including Adams and Arapahoe counties, as well portions of northeast and southeast Colorado. In August 2002, the Consolidated Communications Network of Colorado (CCNC), a formalized DTRS user group, was formed. CCNC participants include all full and associate members using the DTRS, governs participation on the system. All levels of government from municipal to federal, as well as all types of first responders ranging from police, fire, EMS, public works, schools, hospitals, utilities and transit represent the CCNC membership.

The State of Colorado, through the Communication Services team, has maintained an integral partnership with all levels of government and users on the system, functioning as the primary entity providing system engineering and support. In April 2008, the Colorado State Legislature funded a multi-million dollar upgrade to the DTRS network. This upgrade included a significant hardware and software replacement affecting 28 local and state public safety dispatch centers statewide as well equipment at all system sites. Additionally the Pikes Peak Regional Communications Network (PPRCN) became part of CCNC in July 2009 and its Zone Controller was upgraded and integrated into the DTRS. Upgrade benefits include transition to an IP-based network environment, space to add IP-based and hard-wired dispatch consoles, as well as a supported platform for growth with future Project 25 (P25) technologies.

Five of the project phases had been completed when pursuant to Senate Bill 08-155, DoIT - and therefore its Communication Services team - was transferred from DPA to the Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT) on July 1, 2008. Heralded nationally as a successful example of local and state level partnership in public safety communications, the DTRS will now additionally benefit from formalized processes and project management as the state works with local government to complete the statewide build out of the system.

Under OIT, Public Safety Communications Network (PSCN) continues to implement additional infrastructure statewide as described in the initial plan. The Colorado Wireless Interoperabilty Network (CWIN) initiative provided for funding as a single project to assist in completion of the initial phases. The CWIN program provided almost $40 million in grants to local governments for the construction of new infrastructure. In addition, Colorado was awarded $14.3 million from the PSIC grant for disbursement to local and state government. A significant portion of the PSIC funds has been used for DTRS infrastructure and subscriber equipment.

The infrastructure currently consists of 250 active radio sites operating on five Zone Controllers and provides mobile radio coverage to approximately 95% of the state highways. The system utilizes frequencies in both the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands. There are more than 1,000 state, local, county, federal and tribal agencies and over 117,000 subscriber radios using DTRS. Approximately one-third of the users are state agencies while two-thirds of the users are local and federal government agencies. The system averaged more than 9,000 hours of talk time each month and completed over 112 million calls in 2019.

The system has additional radio sites planned for implementation into 2020-2021 to provide additional coverage in areas still needing coverage.

DTRS provides a near seamless statewide wireless system that enables direct communications between agencies requiring primary and interoperable communications for daily and emergency incidents. DTRS supports wireless voice (and in the future data communications) on a single integrated system based upon the P25 suite of open standards. The main deliverables of DTRS are improved communications for all participating agencies with significant improvement in interoperability between agencies. The DTRS meets the highest level of interoperability for Technology on the SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum, as it is integrated via gateways, with other public safety communications networks throughout the state. DTRS initially received funding through the "Public Safety Trust Fund” created by HB98-1068 and more recently through Homeland Security, CWIN, Energy and Mineral Impact, Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) and other federal grants. These grant programs have promoted local, regional, and tribal government participation in DTRS via funding of significant infrastructure additions to the system