Wireless communications are critical for public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) professionals during the emergency operations that follow natural or man-made disasters, scenarios in which both commercial and dedicated terrestrial networks often fail to provide the necessary support. The reason is threefold: they simply get destroyed by the disaster, they cannot sustain the sudden surge of network demand or they fail to deliver the necessary bandwidth and/or other QoS guarantees. Because LTE is expected to become the main wireless technology for broadband communication, a lot of studies have been devoted to assess its compliance for PPDR purposes and to find suitable architectural solutions able to meet mission-critical requirements. This approach is surely worthy, but it is based on the assumption that infrastructure-based terrestrial systems are reliable.
As a consequence, in worstcase emergency scenarios appropriate guarantees can be provided only in the hypothesis of huge investment costs. Recent developments in satellite technologies are bringing the availability of non-terrestrial high performance channels, with better properties when comparing to LTE for what regards availability and reliability. On this basis, the paper proposes a network architecture based on the integration of satellite and LTE networks for both infrastructure-based and infrastructure-less scenarios. The proposal aims to provide field operators and people in distress with transparent accessibility, coverage guarantees and broadband performance when terrestrial infrastructures are lacking, and to expand their coverage, capacity and resilience otherwise.