Globalstar Europe Satellite Services and Manx Telecom announced an alliance to develop EMN, a new multiple technology communications system that aims to be the world’s first communications service to switch between multiple cellular networks and a DtU (Direct-to-User) mobile satellite network.
Using Globalstar’s Low-Earth Orbit satellite constellation, EMN is intending to be a BYOD solution that will enable users to communicate as normal with their existing devices, such as smartphones or tablets, but with ubiquitous nationwide coverage via satellite operations.
With EMN, which uses Manx Telecom’s Smart SIM technology, when a user’s signal level begins to weaken due to the limited reach of the carrier’s coverage or disappears due to a natural or man-made disaster, connectivity will be automatically handed over to another mobile network that is in range. If a terrestrial network is not available, network connectivity will be transferred onto Globalstar’s system.
One of the first services to be developed by the new alliance, and supported by specialist technical consultancy firm, Intelcomm, is FRAN. FRAN will enable all first responders, to continue making and receiving calls in the event that cellular networks become unavailable. This will be especially vital in a fast developing emergency situation when users suddenly have their communication cut off due to network overload, pre-emption or land-based infrastructure damage.
First responders need truly ubiquitous and affordable mobile communications. Previous attempts have included using satellites as ‘backhaul’ to deliver signals to terrestrial masts. However, unlike EMN’s DtU approach which connects users directly via satellite, a backhaul solution is still dependent on the reach and integrity of terrestrial infrastructure – something that cannot be guaranteed, as became apparent during 2015 when severe weather in the UK damaged terrestrial infrastructure, impairing emergency services’ ability to operate.
Using the satellite network directly, the EMN solution does not require the backhaul solution. The satellites orbit at just 1,400 km above the Earth, providing much lower latency than other satellite networks in higher orbits. In addition, there is high reliability in that there are one or more satellites visible from any given point.
In the summer of 2016, Manx Telecom and Globalstar are targeting a trial service of FRAN involving parties from the emergency services community.
“First responders face an ever growing array of operational challenges,” commented Jay Monroe, Chairman & 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.”
Gary Lamb, CEO of Manx Telecom, commented, “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. Our firm view is that FRAN can uniquely provide emergency services personnel with communications networks they can rely on, wherever they are, 24/7.”