Mobile Subscriber Equipment

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Mobile Subscriber Equipment antenna trucks in use during Operation Desert Storm
Mobile Subscriber Equipment concept

The Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) system was a pioneering tactical telephony system for mobile users,[1] somewhat akin to today's mobile telephony systems, created by General Dynamics for the United States Army.[2] Acquisition began in 1982 for echelons below Corps and down to the battalion level,[3] and the system was first fielded in February, 1988.[4]

The first version included phones for both stationary and portable use, plus fax service.[5] When a user placed a call, the MSE software automatically found the destination telephone and connected the call. Tactical Packet Network services were provided by BBN Technologies as a packet-switching overlay to the MSE circuit-switched network; these services added Internet Protocol switching and routing to support end-to-end data communications.[6]

MSE was intended to provide communications support from the Corps' rear boundary to the division's maneuver battalion rear boundary, covering an area of approximately 37,500 square kilometers. It consisted of the following major subsystems. The Node Center Switch (NCS) made up the backbone of the MSE system and provided connectivity through the use of extension switches, Large Extension Nodes (LEN's), Small Extension Nodes (SEN's), and Radio Access Units (RAU's). To communicate with other mobile and wire telephone users throughout the theater, the Radio Access Units allow the Mobile Subscriber Radio Telephone (MSRT) to interface into the MSE system through the NCS, LEN or SEN.[7]


  1. ^ Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) Operations, Field Manual 11-55, United States Army, 22 June 1999.
  2. ^ "Army Innovations: The First Cellular Network", General Dynamics Mission Systems, December 11, 2014.
  3. ^ "Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE)", Signal School, United States Army.
  4. ^ "Mobile Subscriber Equipment, National Museum of the United States Army.
  5. ^ Op. cit., National Museum.
  6. ^ Op. cit., Field Manual 11-55.
  7. ^ Op. cit, Signal School