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New mobile phone mast to save lives

The BGAN system in action
The BGAN system in action

The EU-funded WISECOM project has developed portable mobile phone masts which can be deployed in minutes to aid rescue workers in disaster sites.

One of the first systems to go down in a disaster is generally the mobile networks, and re-establishing them can help workers find victims and treat them much quicker, saving many lives.

Two systems have been developed, using the BGAN and DVB-RCS standards. The former is a smaller system, weighing around 10kg and can be carried on a plane.

This has a 300m range over voice and data, and can be set up in minutes by almost any worker, even without technical training.

Bigger and better

The DVB-RCS is a much larger device at 60kg, and will likely be used in the days after a disaster to improve communications over several kilometres.

Both use satellite communication to send and receive the signals, and include WiFi coverage as well. The complexity of set up for the DVB-RCS is mostly down to the precision needed in setting the satellite dish.

"We developed lightweight, portable (or transportable) systems that allow rescue workers to set up voice and data networks in a very short time," says Matteo Beriloli, WISECOM's coordinator.

"The system works anywhere there is satellite coverage, which is to say almost everywhere in the world," he adds.