Monday, May 2, 2011

AT&T’s Suitcase Cell Tower Delivers Extra Coverage in a Pinch

AT&T’s Suitcase Cell Tower Delivers Extra Coverage in a Pinch

by Christina Bonnington,
April 25th 2011

Emergencies and natural disasters are when we need reliable communication most — and that’s often the very time that cell towers get swamped and fail us.

In order to prepare for such situations, AT&T has released the Remote Mobility Zone, a kind of impromptu cell tower in a small package that can be quickly deployed after disaster strikes (or when connecting to regular towers just isn’t happening). They can be set up in any area AT&T normally offers coverage, when the service is disrupted for whatever reason.

First is the “Fly Away,” a portable cell tower packed into a suitcase that government and first responders can use to get cell service back to an area quickly. “Fly Away” incorporates a satellite dish that can be mounted on a car or truck and is powered by a generator or some other outside power source. It takes about half an hour to set up, and can support data services (at sub-broadband speeds) and up to 14 calls at once.

The “Fixed-Site Solution” establishes a mounted dish that can be used as a back-up communications system to support up to 100 simultaneous users.

Finally, “Park and Use” is a government-only integrated car system that provides mobile cell service through roof-mounted satellites. Clients of these services can also subscribe to AT&T WIreless Priority Service to ensure that key personnel have access to the network by prioritizing the traffic that passes through.

Hopefully, such solutions will prevent problems like Verizon experienced during the Northeast’s Snow-pocalypse this year, where the carrier dropped at least 10,000 emergency calls. But if these measures aren’t already in place in an area, it could still take hours or days for first responders to reach the site and set up these services.

The personal cell phone towers cost between $15,000 and $45,000 (plus annual fees) and will be available to corporate and government entities.

Remote Mobility Zone [AT&T via Fast Company]

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