Satellite communications (SATCOM) have been a trusted choice for public safety agencies and their mission-critical communication needs for nearly half a century.
While LTE/cellular broadband – like traditional two-way radio systems – generally uses fixed towers with a range of up to several miles, SATCOM uses satellites to transmit and receive voice or data. This provides several advantages, including the ability to reach remote areas anywhere and maintain a communication link that is not affected by disasters or emergencies that can interfere with the local telecom infrastructure.
When a disaster – such as a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or wildfires – strikes, it can disrupt the local wireless communications ecosystem of fiber optic cables, microwave backhaul systems and tower infrastructure. SATCOM provides a highly reliable redundant communication path by directly accessing satellites thousands of miles above the earth. Satellite networks use redundant, widely geographically diverse downlink sites (“earth stations”) to link from the satellite into the backbone voice and data networks. This ensures a localized emergency does not disrupt operation of the satellite network.
Many public safety agencies maintain a cache of ready-to-use SATCOM devices and services to enable reliable connectivity during and after disasters. For example, first responders in disaster-prone areas often depend upon “SATCOM go kits” using satellite phones and/or SATCOM broadband voice/data terminals that can be easily deployed and set up. This helps ensure uninterrupted voice and data capability during the “first 60 minutes” after a disaster strikes, which could stretch to days and even weeks as recovery efforts continue, enabling essential communications and information sharing. These units can provide voice calling to any landline, mobile or satellite phone; Internet or data connectivity; or even extension of/interoperability to existing radio. Combining SATCOM equipment with cost-effective prepaid services that are only billed when used (no monthly bill when the SATCOM is not being used) support a cost-effective Disaster Recovery/COOP communication plans.
When a public safety personnel needs to communicate in rural or remote areas where there is limited or no LTE coverage, SATCOM is an indispensable capability so first responders can stay connected. From mountaintops to forests, offshore or even in the air and at sea, SATCOM can provide communications where traditional land-based systems cannot.
Common public safety use cases for SATCOM in remote communications include:
Check out our solutions pages for more details on the variety of equipment and service options available.
Satellite communications (SATCOM) capabilities are an integral part of the vision for providing geographic coverage of the U.S. (including overseas territories) for public safety. FirstNet has teamed with Inmarsat Government to make this vision a reality.
Key advantages of purchasing your agency’s SATCOM capabilities through FirstNet include: