Carrier's new suitcase-sized cell tower lets first responders set up their own wireless service when a natural disaster strikes

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

April 25, 2011

2 Min Read
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.

  • Does Telecom Have a Crisis Management Plan?

  • Japan Efforts Continue, Impact Assessed

  • Quake Rattles Japan Telecom

  • NTT Updates on Earthquake Impact

  • Japan Update: NTT Discusses Network Recovery

  • Japan Is Shouting at Operators – Will They Listen?

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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