GSM, BGAN, etc, etc

by Jon Thompson on July 31, 2008

Ok, strike me with lightening if I am wrong but this one just smacks of ‘been there, done that’.  The mobile news sites have been lighting up with this story.  WISECOM, a group that I have never heard of (which doesn’t mean a thing) has come out with a GSM/BGAN/DVB-RCS/etc system that can connect everyone to everything.  In principal it is a great idea but when I hit the WISECOM site I read this:

The WISECOM project is co-funded by the European Commission 1 . It studies, develops, and validates by live trials candidate rapidly deployable lightweight communications infrastructures for emergency conditions (after a natural or industrial hazard).

The system integrates terrestrial mobile radio networks – comprising GSM, UMTS, WiFi, and optionally WiMax and TETRA – over satellite, using Inmarsat BGAN and DVB-RCS systems. WISECOM uses lightweight and rapidly deployable technologies, and incorporates location-based services. The infrastructure is intended to cover immediate needs in the first hours and days after a disaster event, as well as medium to longer term needs, during the recovery and rebuilding phase following an emergency.

WISECOM is counting on active participation by medical and rescue organizations to ensure the usefulness of the developed solution.

Yeah, read that last line again. The bit about WISECOM “counting on” organizations to “ensure the usefulness of the developed solution” makes me real nervous.  Now, click over to the demonstration photos which can be found here.  No BGAN, no antennas, and no GSM/BGAN/DVB-RCS/etc thingamajiggy.  Just a lot of people with PDA’s (really!? PDA’s!?) and a couple laptops all standing around looking kind of confused.  Here is a sample photo from the drill:

(Doesn’t really inspire confidence now does it?)

There is a lot of German and I don’t speak German so I am sure all that writing is telling me that the unit is there but I just can’t see it.  And I am sure that all the folks are really good at what they do.  It is just that I have a problem with the fact that 1) the unit only exists because someone is telling me it exists (I would think there would be at least one photo) and 2) they are relying on us to make it work right.  I can tell you they are a long way from rolling it out if they are waiting on the aid community to make it work right.  Hopefully all the German firefighters that were hustling around at the demo can help them to make it right so that someday soon we’ll see something that looks like this:

Oh, wait I didn’t see anything there either.  I did see a BGAN and a Linksys WRT54GL wireless router but I didn’t see much more than that.  Maybe that was the kit.  Hmmm…

Sorry to be snarky but I think you get my point.  The production cost for that video alone probably could have fed a village and the cost to build that invisible German thingy above probably could have fed a whole city.  I sure as hell hope they save a lot of lives with those things.

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