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The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program is analyzing the feasibility of cost-effective, vehicle mounted satellite infrastructure links in order to meet the needs of first responders operating outside the coverage of FirstNet and commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. This research will provide FirstNet with a technical and economic analysis of current and near-future satellite communications capabilities that can function within the FirstNet architecture and provide first responders with critical services when terrestrial radio access is unavailable.


Satellite pscr

Communications satellite in low earth orbit.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (H.R. 3630) appropriated $7 billion for the establishment of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network under FirstNet, an independent authority in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet will provide first responders with dedicated and prioritized access to high-speed data, voice, and other mission critical applications. This nationwide network will enable public safety agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to effectively conduct their mission by establishing a common communications system based on 3GPP LTE standards. PSCR, a joint NIST/NTIA program, is sponsored by FirstNet to conduct multifaceted research in several areas, including the Vehicular Network System (VNR) task. PSCR will help determine the viability of satellite communications methods to extend the FirstNet network beyond an established terrestrial radio access network (RAN) for standard first responder vehicles.


PSCR has diverse expertise in telecommunications that includes LTE air interface, LTE infrastructure, and satellite communications. Additionally, PSCR has multiple cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) partners in the satellite communications and deployable LTE industries.  

The vehicular network system project is primarily focused on the satellite communications link. The Department of Homeland Security sponsors additional work focused on deployable eNodeBs and EPC technologies. The VNR research sponsored by FirstNet focuses on the following:

  • Evaluating the technical capabilities of different satellite implementations that public safety could use on standard first responder vehicles
  • Determining the current availability of satellite equipment and services available for public safety use on standard first responder vehicles
  • Evaluating the viability of emerging satellite technologies and future system deployments in their potential capabilities and applications
  • Developing a cost estimate of each type of available equipment and technology
  • Educating FirstNet on critical technical and economic aspects of operating mobile satellite capabilities from first responder vehicles
  • Identifying research opportunities for measurement of satellite communications system performance integrated into LTE infrastructure


The ability of public safety users to maintain connectivity outside coverage from FirstNet or a commercial carrier is critical in effectively conducting their mission. This research will enable FirstNet to make the best remote capabilities available that fit into the budgets of federal, state, and local agencies.

Responder Vehicle pscr
Typical first responder vehicle that could house an VNR.
Created August 12, 2016, Updated October 18, 2016