EMN Will Combine Cellular And Satellite To Aid Emergency Mobile Services

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Manx Telecom and Globalstar will co-develop EMN, a hybrid cellular-satellite system they say can result in more affordable, ubiquitous connectivit

Isle of Man-based Manx Telecom and satellite firm Globalstar are to co-develop a hybrid cellular-satellite communications system, claiming the combination of the two technologies will ensure ubiquitous and affordable connectivity for emergency services and first responders.

The system, called Extended Mobile Network (EMN), will use Manx Telecom’s ‘Smart SIM’ technology to seek alternative cellular connections if cut off from the primary operator, and then switch to Globalstar’s satellite network if no terrestrial connection is available.

Globalstar said its satellites orbit at 1,400km (900 miles) above the Earth, close enough to ensure latency is not an issue, and that one or more satellites should be visible at any given point on the planet – improving reliability.

Hybrid communications

emergency-response3“First responders face an ever growing array of operational challenges,” said Jay Monroe, CEO of Globalstar. “The EMN solution, incorporating our reliable satellite network, will help ensure that first responders can continuously communicate and help them perform their significant roles more effectively.”

The partners say that providing satellite connectivity to mobile devices directly is far more efficient than satellite backhaul, used to connect masts to the wider network, because the latter is still reliant on mobile infrastructure not being disrupted.

This would appeal to emergency services dealing with an incident in rural areas with limited mobile coverage and during natural and man-made disasters which could cause mobile infrastructure to be disrupted.

For example, during the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, people were urged not to use mobile phone networks unless absolutely necessary so that capacity was not saturated, while earthquakes and floods can take some infrastructure offline.

Better reliability

Trials of EMN will start later this year and the system is intended to work with existing smartphones and tablets.

“Together with our partners, we intend to show that satellite communications, combined with Manx Telecom’s flexible Strongest Signal SIM technology, can provide much-needed balance and backup to the emergency communications architecture and dramatically increase overall reliability,” added Gary Lamb, Manx Telecom CEO.

In the UK, EE has won a £1 billion contract to deliver a new 4G Emergency Service Network (ESN), which replace the existing TETRA system, allowing police, ambulance and fire services to access data services and applications.

Vodafone has deployed pop-up 4G networks in a number of disaster zones, including Nepal and the Philippines, including its ‘Network In A Backpack’ system.

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