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, Lockheed Martin's LTE-over-Satellite system 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%). LTE 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.
"When disaster strikes, cell phone networks often go down – whether because of the event or because of the sheer volume of traffic," said Maria Demaree, vice president and general manager of Mission Solutions at Lockheed Martin Space. "So, it's important to have new ways to connect families and first responders with people who would be otherwise cut off from contact."