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Mobile

AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies

When disaster strikes, knocking out wireless coverage, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is equipping its customers to be ready on the scene with its new suitcase-sized cell tower to go. (See AT&T Launches Mobile Disaster Recovery.)

The Remote Mobility Zone, announced Monday, includes an antenna that fits in a suitcase, along with a satellite dish. The unit requires a generator to work, but government and public safety agencies can deploy one to handle up to 14 simultaneous calls and 2G data within a half-mile radius. AT&T will offer other organizations a fixed cell site option or, for government use, small cell sites that can be attached to vehicles.



The portable cell tower could also be used by organizations that operate in remote locations where AT&T holds licensed spectrum, but in which wireless coverage may not be available. It will retail for between $15,000 and $45,000, plus monthly fees, and will allow any AT&T phone to connect to the voice and data network.

Why this matters
In the aftermath of natural disasters, wireless operators have to devote fleets of trucks to act as wireless cell towers while they rebuild their networks. It's a time-consuming and expensive process. With its new Remote Mobility Zone, AT&T is putting some of that responsibility in the hands of first responders.

The need for a quick response time was abundantly clear in the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, in which hundreds of Japanese residents could not reach their loved ones. Local wireless operators are still struggling to rebuild their networks. If government and public safety agencies could help, the wireless downtime could be lessened, especially for critical communication in the most severely affected areas.

For more
Here's more on how the wireless operators spring to action in emergencies.



— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:06:42 PM
re: AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies




@Laurent,


 


There are a few issues with using sat phones.  First, you would need to have the first responders already have them, check them on a regular basis, etc.  Most sat phones are very limited, some have very large antennae and overall, make a very poor phone to carry around constantly.  So that would require having two phones per person.  Now the second issue, does everyone have all of the phone numbers they need in the second phone?  If not, who are they going to call?  If you need to call Bob and the only phone number you have for Bob is the one that is on the currently unavailable network, you won't be getting a hold of Bob.


 


Now the biggest issue, sat phones are not 100% reliable.


 


“IMPORTANT INFORMATION Concerning the Globalstar Satellite Constellation


Two-Way Voice and Duplex Data Services - Temporary Limitations


 


As previously announced, many Globalstar satellites are experiencing an anomaly resulting in degraded performance of the amplifiers for the S-band satellite communications antenna. The anomaly is adversely affecting two-way voice and data services. Customer service continues to be available, but at certain times at any given location it may take substantially longer to establish calls and the duration of calls may be limited. Until the new second-generation Globalstar satellite constellation is operational, Globalstar is offering its customers a web-based Call Times Tool, on its customer Internet sites, which subscribers may use to predict when one or more unaffected satellites will be overhead at any specific geographic location.”


 


Just so you know, the second generation is not operational in the US.&nbsp; The issues started last year and their current status was updated on April 20<sup>th</sup> and it is still not operational.&nbsp; Not very good for first responders as they won&rsquo;t be able to use the &ldquo;web-based Call Times Tool&rdquo; to check on their coverage.




WilliamofOccam 12/5/2012 | 5:06:44 PM
re: AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies

On a second pass this article does not seem to be so much about first responsers as regular folks who are caught unable to use their cell phones. However talking of first responders, the real need is to talk among themselves, for which sat phones are not nearly as good as having local cellular coverage.

[email protected] 12/5/2012 | 5:06:44 PM
re: AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies




If the issue is providing emergency communication for first responders then handing over satellite phones to these critical personel seems like a much more efficient, solid and economical way of solving the issue. A satelite phone is likely to cost below 500$ in bulk and does not require any large power source or set up time like these AT&amp;T Portable Cell Towers.


It seems more targeted towards the general public as a way of providing a stop-gap solution until the global network is up and running.




[email protected] 12/5/2012 | 5:06:44 PM
re: AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies




If the issue is providing emergency communication for first responders then handing over satellite phones to these critical personel seems like a much more efficient, solid and economical way of solving the issue. A satelite phone is likely to cost below 500$ in bulk and does not require any large power source or set up time like these AT&amp;T Portable Cell Towers.


It seems more targeted towards the general public as a way of providing a stop-gap solution until the global network is up and running.




WilliamofOccam 12/5/2012 | 5:06:45 PM
re: AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies

Yes, the performance is not great right now but come Femto LTE eNBs performance and cost for communicating within the cell should improve dramatically. Of course communicating with the outside world will be constrained by the backhaul capacity of the base station. My point was that ad hoc networks (which face the same constraint of bakchaul capacity) will not be able to hold their own against this kind of technology.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:06:47 PM
re: AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies

I agree. This approach still has its limitations -- it's expensive, requires a generator, only does 2G data and supports only 14 calls at once. But, it's still an important step to making the recovery process quicker and more reliable.

WilliamofOccam 12/5/2012 | 5:06:47 PM
re: AT&T Sells Portable Cell Towers for Emergencies

Emergency communications for first responders has long been touted as a use case for wireless ad hoc networks and attracts regular contributions in academic conferences. AT&amp;T's approach should (rightly) sound the death knell for much of this activity. Why do you need a complex multi-hop ad hoc network when you can get a cellular network that is compatible with existing equipment, proven to work, probably costs less, and likely provides much better performance.

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