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Vodafone’s Portable Mobile Network to the Rescue

Vodafone Hungary’s award winning Instant Network 3G has yet again been put to vital use in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma to facilitate communications on the ground.

Vodafone Instant Network volunteers in the field.

Communication in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is key both to supporting those affected and in assisting in the assessment of damage and the coordination of rescue and relief efforts. That was the idea that drove specialists Csaba Pervai and Robert Tóth at Vodafone Magyarország to invent a prototype of a portable mobile network that became known as Instant Network.

A beefed-up version, Instant Network 3G, was unveiled in 2015 and it allows response teams and aid agencies to set up a free communication network within 40 minutes anywhere in the world. Due to its convenient size, it can be transported on commercial flights as well, so deploying it should not cause any logistics problems.

In such emergencies, the Vodafone Foundation deploys employee volunteers and communications technologies to restore and provide free, vital communications and technical support to aid agencies, victims and refugees in remote areas.

Tried and Tested

The most current project concerns helping out in relief efforts in the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma swept the region; however, the technology has been tested as many as ten times before under similarly harsh conditions.

During the severe drought in Kaikor, Kenya it was in use for 47 days, during which 12,000 free minutes were used by aid agencies and humanitarian call centers.

At the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal and in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyanʼs destruction in 2013, a total of 443,000 calls and 1.4 million text messages were registered on the network. Including the Philippines, Kenya and South Sudan, the device was engaged in 2.9 million calls.

The Instant Network 3G also came handy during the refugee crisis of 2015 in Europe, too. In fact, Instant Charge units are still operating in two refugee camps in Greece, enabling thousands to charge their phones and keeping 84,000 plus devices connected. Instant Charge was specially designed for the response to the refugee crisis and will be also used in disasters combined with free networks. 

“It fills us with pride that with the Instant Network 3G solution, developed at Vodafone Hungary by our own engineers, we are able to help fellow human beings in areas hit by natural disasters anywhere in the world by relying on innovation and mobile technology,” says Amrita Gangotra, technology director of Vodafone Hungary.

“At Vodafone, we believe in innovating with technology. It is an integral part of our basic way of thinking, since it makes our lives not only easier but also safer.” Professional support in such situations may well be the most significant benefit of the technology and know-how provided by us, she adds.

The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network team is also committed to developing new technologies to best support the humanitarian community. Some 70 trained Vodafone employees make up the Instant Network team. These volunteers remain on standby, ready to deploy in response to natural or humanitarian disasters. All volunteers out on the field complete Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) to ensure they are prepared to deploy under difficult circumstances.