Kentucky Techlines - a monthly digital information publication (banner imagery) go to homepage. Kentucky Techlines - a monthly digital information publication (banner imagery) go to homepage. Kentucky Techlines - a monthly digital information publication (banner imagery) go to homepage.

Kentucky Emergency Warning System (KEWS) To Be Upgraded to Digital

KEWS microwave tower

The Kentucky Emergency Warning System (KEWS), an analog microwave system spanning the state, is being upgraded to a digital system by the Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT). 

The KEWS system performed well in the past, but due to its age, a lack of spare parts and advancements in digital technology, an effort is underway to modernize it. COT awarded a contract to Harris Corporation to upgrade the existing KEWS analog network to full digital capability. Digital radio equipment is being installed while power plants and existing facilities are being upgraded to meet the commonwealth’s voice and data communications needs for the next 25 years. Engineering and site analysis on the project has been completed and the contract is now beginning its first implementation phase.


In 1974, after devastating tornadoes left 73 Kentuckians dead, the legislature decided to build a statewide public safety communications network that would be maintained and controlled by the state. In 1979, the Kentucky Emergency Warning System (KEWS) was completed at a cost of approximately $22 million. The new system used microwave technology to provide 1,200 voice communication channels. The KEWS microwave network has provided first responder analog communications and telecommunications services for the past 27 years.

The KEWS system is comprised of 144 microwave radio tower sites across the commonwealth. The microwave towers are strategically located on hills and higher ground across the state and offer analog microwave point-to-point transmit and receive capabilities. The microwave infrastructure is used to interconnect the towers, giving users the ability to seamlessly link and communicate statewide.

KEWS Central Office in Frankfort

KEWS Central Office building in Frankfort

Over the years, KEWS has evolved and expanded its communication services to not only state agencies such as the Kentucky State Police, the Department of Military Affairs, Kentucky Educational Television, the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Department of Natural Resources, Kentucky Emergency Management and the University of Kentucky, but also federal and local agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the National Weather Service and numerous local and county emergency medical services.

Digital Microwave Upgrade Project

The primary goal of the upgrade is to deliver a multi-service network that supports existing time-division multiplexing (TDM)-based voice, data and video services, and provides capacity for growth and integration of future communication services. The network is to be scalable; allow for significant growth; optimize the utilization of network resources; utilize advanced technology; and, ultimately, the solution must be cost effective.

The new system will be an Internet Protocol-based network using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology over Synchronous Optical NETwork (SONET) microwave transport. The new digital backbone will have multiple MPLS protected OC3 loops using state of the art digital microwave radios, carrier class routers and analog/digital multiplexers. The spur routes will utilize Harris 5000 or 6000 series protected radios at an OC3 rate (155.5 million bits per second) or less.

The existing KEWS customers will be transitioned to the new system with no additional changes in their equipment. They will also have the option to take advantage of new capabilities of the digital system as radio technology advances. Existing mobile data radios and other newer first responder systems will benefit from the new system from the start. With the modern digital upgrade, KEWS will again provide a secure, highly survivable and redundant wireless digital public safety communication system that is critical for the protection of life and property in the commonwealth.

For additional information, visit the KEWS upgrade Web page.


Last Updated 4/13/2007