Satellite: Still the ‘Critical’ Element in Mission-Critical Communications

Is LTE secure, reliable enough?
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Ali Zarkesh, Vislink

Secure communication has always been the most powerful tool when it comes to ensuring public safety. Operational success often depends on the quick and reliable transfer of information, whether that’s just audio or HD video and data as well. Satellite, with its high levels of redundancy and available bandwidth, has always been a viable option for meeting this demand, but now other players have begun to show their cards.

Given the growing need for immediate access to data while out in the field, and the nation-wide coverage offered by today’s networks, it’s no surprise mobile operators are considering using their investments in LTE to offer premium network services designed with public safety in mind. However, these networks are not robust enough to meet the stringent requirements of critical communications users. They are subject to high latency, delay and glitches which can result in failed operations due to decisions being made too late, or without all the information available.

For this reason, public safety officials rarely rely on cellular networks alone for mission-critical communications. It’s dangerous to entrust all data transmission to 4G LTE in a crisis because mobile networks are not a closed loop; they are susceptible to becoming overloaded by the public, thereby rendering them useless.

That’s not to say there is no place for emerging 4G LTE technologies which promise greater bandwidth and faster throughput. But, while these networks can be valuable for initial reconnaissance or non-emergency operations, where data can be recorded for analysis at a later date, or transmitted without concerns over possible delays, they are simply not reliable enough for public safety officials that require access to the latest information as and when it happens.

This growing demand for HD footage and resilient data connectivity has reinforced the need for high-capacity networks designed with redundancy in mind. With the emphasis now on front end compression and faster data transmission, modern satellite equipment has once again become the go-to resource for public safety personnel. Satellite technology does not suffer from the same problems as cellular networks since capacity demands are met by a vast number of satellites in operation.

As a result, satcoms now play a more important role than ever in keeping public safety officials connected. Satellite technology has historically been seen as an expensive and impractical communications network. However steadily increasing capacity, reduced costs, modular functionality and higher data transfer rates now mean satellite communications can exceed even the most stringent requirements, all delivered through a more robust network than 4G LTE.

Ali Zarkesh is the business development director for Vislink.

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