The rucksack bringing mobile phone coverage to disaster zones

A portable mobile phone network that can be carried in a backpack will help to save lives and broadcast crucial information in disaster zones across the world.

People suffering from the effects of earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes and tropical storms will be able to make calls and send text messages when in the close vicinity to the portable network.

The ‘Instant Network Mini’ was announced by mobile and communication giants Vodafone and weighs just 11kg – about the same as 100 bars of chocolate.

The shiny new backpack is ideal for use in emergency situations where there is no mobile connection and will allow those trying to co-ordinate aid and broadcast important health messages to those in the areas.

The backpack can be taken on planes as hand luggage for those who are rushing to emergency or disaster zones and also be deployed by those without a technical knowledge.

credit-vodaphonefoundation

It can provide up to five concurrent calls within a radius of 100 metres and also allow text messages to be sent to thousands of people to provide the information needed to help save lives.

Following the trend of products getting smaller as new developments are made, the backpack has shrunk in size. It is almost ten times lighter than Vodafone’s original portable network – which was spread across four suitcases and weighed 100kg.

The smaller network was developed with Vodafone Spain and the foundation’s partners Huawei and Telecoms Sans Frontières.

The case provides a secure 2G GSM network, with the base receiver connecting to a host network over a satellite connection.

However, the original networking equipment offered a much larger operating circle of up to 5km.

It was deployed in the Philippines within 24 hours of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan which displaced more than 1m people. The use of the four-suitcase network allowed 1.4m text messages to be sent and almost 500,000 calls in 29 days.

Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation, said the instant mini network could significantly benefit the working being done by humanitarian workers who need to quickly be able to communicate messages.

He said: “The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network has enabled thousands of people to reconnect with their loved ones.

“Vodafone Foundation Instant Network Mini is simple and quick to deploy and will be particularly valuable to those humanitarian workers without any other means of communication.”


Featured image courtesy of Thanatorn Chusuwan / Shutterstock.com.

Backpack image and video courtesy of Vodafone Foundation.


UK government pledges extra £250m to bring ‘superfast’ broadband to rural towns

An extra £250m of funding has been allocated to provide hard-to-reach towns and cities in the UK with access to superfast broadband.

The announcement was made as part of the UK government’s aim to give 95% of homes and businesses in the country access to superfast broadband by 2017 – and is in addition to the £1.2bn already invested by central and local authorities.

Local projects will be able to access funding from the £250m pot – with some of the most hard-to-reach locations set to benefit the most.

The £1.2bn that has already been invested has been split across three different areas. In total £790m has been pledged to extend superfast broadband, £150m to provide high-speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities across the country and £150m to improve the quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services.

The bulk of the additional funding, £184.34m, has gone to English towns and cities with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland receiving no more than £20m each.


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You can see which areas of the UK have been given the most funding on the interactive map above

The UK government claims that the current rural programme will deliver returns for £20 for every £1 invested and says that faster broadband will create an extra 56,000 jobs by 2024.

It claims that more than 10,000 homes and businesses are now gaining access to superfast broadband every week, with the ambitious figure of 40,000 per week being the target for just a few months time.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the government wants to ensure that Britain is one of the best countries in the world for broadband and make sure the country is not “left behind in the digital slow lane.”

She said: “Superfast broadband will benefit everyone – whether they need it for work, to do homework or simply to download music or films. Thousands of homes and businesses now have access and it is helping people with their everyday tasks.”

However figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown that in 2013 there were four million homes in the UK that are still not connected to the internet – let alone having access to superfast broadband – proving there is a long way to go if the 2017 target is to be met.

In total 21 million, 83%, of households in the UK have access to the internet which is 3% higher than the figures for 2012.

The ‘Superfast Britain’ initiative is being run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport with the aim of aiding business growth and job creation.


Image courtesy of the Sean MacEntee via Flickr.