Shiny and gray with a 30-foot satellite mast that emphasizes communication, Verizon’s Tactical Mobile Command Vehicle was in Sacramento Monday and today to network with local authorities and businesses. But its eight semi-truck-sized wheels revealed its more urgent mission: Just this year, it’s moved across the country at least twice to connect governments during major emergencies.
The trailer, built two to three years ago, is billed as a “Community Connection Center” per lettering on its exterior that also highlights access to free phone charging, email and Internet access; and news and information. It’s capable of speeds of 100 Mbps receiving and 30 Mbps transmitting. But for the public sector, this 43-foot-long, roughly $800,000 road warrior has a far deeper significance. Offering connections to Verizon’s MPLS network via links to one of four satellites, trailers like this are part of the company’s larger landscape of mobile connectivity offerings it has deployed since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, with an increasing depth of service:
- Based in Dallas, this vehicle provided satellite connections, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service, video capabilities and SMART board availability in the Merrimack Valley area of Massachusetts following natural gas explosions there in September; and at Mexico Beach, Fla., after Hurricane Michael damaged the city extensively in October. It also offers conference room seating; internal and external TV or video monitors; and expanded exterior seating via an attachable inflatable tent that can be heated and cooled by the trailer’s own temperature system.
- Satellite hardware from iDirect, designed to Verizon standards, enables exterior connectivity while a wireless access point ensures wireless access inside the trailer. For night operations, there’s red “night vision” lighting that enables meetings without temporarily compromising safety officials’ eyesight when they step outside. The trailer is self-contained via its own generator for about five days before it must be refueled.
- Periodically, it visits cities like Sacramento to build awareness. On Monday, officials from the Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters tested their ability to reissue drivers licenses and ID information via the trailer and their own applications, to demonstrate how it might be done during an emergency.
- Designed to be adaptive and autonomous, this trailer — like similar pieces of Verizon equipment — operates on the assumption it may be deployed to an area where, following a disaster, connectivity is minimal at best. With that in mind, it can communicate 22,000 miles up to a satellite, then down to whichever of the company’s three ground stations is best for the situation. But if existing Verizon service is still available, the trailer can also communicate across the company’s 4G LTE network — a capability added during the last couple of years. – Techwire