For those of you who experienced anxiety when various mobile companies were allowed, in 2008, to decommission their analog cellular networks (also known as AMPS), and then had your worst nightmares come true when many cellular networks went down following Hurricane Sandy, there is now a solution to the problem. A new device that functions like a ‘Go Bag’ for the concept of consistent cellular service will help assuage fears amidst a crisis and help reconnect people with their loved ones. Vodafone’s philanthropic division, the Vodafone Foundation, has just come up with a miniature version of its generator-powered Instant Network called, appropriately, the Instant Network Mini that weighs just 11kg, or 24 pounds, and can provide 2G access, meaning up to five concurrent calls and thousands of text messages, within a 100-meter radius.
Developed with Vodafone Spain and the Vodafone Foundation’s partners Huawei and Telecoms Sans Frontières, the Mini and its bigger sibling provide a secure 2G GSM network by connecting to a host network over a satellite connection. These portable networks utilize an antenna, a foldable mast, an industrial computer and a base transceiver station and was successfully used in the Phillipines during Typhoons Haiyan and Bopha to bring about some peace of mind amid victims. It handled 1.4 million text messages and 443,288 calls over the course of 29 days. The Mini, with its much smaller size and ability to be taken on commercial flights (though its larger sibling is capable of this also, it can’t be brought on as hand luggage). Hopefully, this effort will more evenly distribute the benefits of such a system by putting a version that’s truly portable on the backs of relief workers.