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Mobile phones often have no service because they are outside the range of a cell tower. People in remote areas without cellular networks don’t even have a mobile phone. When disaster strikes, first responders are frequently hampered by inoperable terrestrial communications.
However, contacting emergency services from the middle of the desert is going to be feasible in the near future. A planned network of cell towers in space will enable everyone with a standard mobile phone to stay connected, everywhere.
UbiquitiLink is creating a global constellation of satellites to connect the phones in our pockets anywhere on the planet, all of the time. Their vision is a universal service for consumers and emergency responders and global E-911 texting, that will save lives, according to the company website.
How will the technology work? Mobile phones connected to terrestrial towers generally have a range limited to around 35 kilometers if the line-of-sight is not interrupted by hills, buildings, or foliage. The signal can travel further, but the reception range is artificially limited by the highly accurate time frames of the mobile phone protocol.
However, with this new technology under development, the phone signal can reach a satellite flying across the sky 500 kilometers overhead without any interruption of the mobile phone protocol.
Utilizing a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, the company claimed that pretty much any phone from the last decade should be able to text and do other low-bandwidth tasks from anywhere, even in the middle of the ocean or deep in the Himalayas.
Currently, the limits of reception and wireless networks are defined much more by architecture and geology than plain physics.
According to techrunch.com, the company claims that in order to achieve its goal, several things must be accomplished:
Lower the orbit. The orbit needs to be under 500 kilometers, or about 310 miles.
Narrow the beam. The low orbit and other limitations mean that a given satellite can only cover a small area at a time.
Lengthen the wavelength.
Having adjusted for these things, an ordinary phone can contact and trade information with a satellite with its standard wireless chip and power budget.
The prototype satellites were launched earlier this year. They successfully made a two-way 2G connection between an ordinary ground device and the satellite, proving that the signal not only gets there and back, but that its Doppler and delay distortions can be rectified on the fly.