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When disaster strikes, cell phone networks often go down – whether because of the event or because of the sheer volume of traffic, new solutions are needed in order to connect families and first reדponders with people who would be otherwise cut off from contact.

LTE (4G mobile communication standard) offers broadband data rates in addition to voice and SMS, so important photos, files and commerce can still take place even if traditional communications infrastructure is disrupted.

A new LTE-over-Satellite system designed to provide connectivity to remote regions has been developed by Lockheed Martin. Its missions encompass flights to areas without cellphone coverage, boats off-shore, or during natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, catastrophic floods or volcanoes. New hotspots connect existing phones to satellites for reliable 4G connections.

Typically, during an emergency that knocks out cellular networks, specialized satellite phones are the only option for mobile connectivity. While satellite phones will still play a key role in disaster recovery, the new LTE-over-Satellite solution lets people complement satellite phones with their existing commercial phones to connect to a pop-up cellular network that is connected directly to a satellite.

The system takes advantage of the fact that 4G devices are now widespread across the world. According to a 2018 Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) report, LTE now accounts for more than a third of all mobile subscriptions globally (35.7%).

Hotspots can be mounted to vehicles, trucks, or ships to provide additional connectivity. For example, with a vehicular-mounted device, LTE-over-satellite connectivity follows a first responder straight to the scene without a separate device. It can be used on cargo trucks to transmit locational data, shipment information and allow vital voice communication to connect with a central dispatcher, according to the company’s announcement.

In addition to missions during natural disaster or terrorist attacks, the system can be potentially used by offshore fishermen located far from cell towers, remote mineral production outposts, scientific and research stations, and in agriculture operations.