Mid-1980s Mobile Subscriber Equipment operator’s station inside an MSE truck.
Diagram of a Dismounted Extension Switch (DES) module with high-speed multiplexing additions, an MSE component developed to expand data capability.
Mobile or cell networks are so named because calls jump from one zone, or cell, to the next as users move. They can operate completely wirelessly, relying on radio signals rather than hardwired copper cable. They provide data services such as fax or email alongside voice transmissions. Every user, known in tech-speak as a node, can reach every other user via a unique identifying number. All nodes may literally be mobile—callers can move about and stay connected so long as they remain within the coverage area. Researchers with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), headquartered at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, knew this kind of geographic flexibility was vital to modern battlefield communications. They partnered with commercial contractors to develop a new system optimized for forward operating areas during battle, where permanent equipment was impractical and Soldiers were always on the move. Virtually all hardware would be truck-mounted, and all users would be free to move about without losing contact with rearward forces or each other.