Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Mobile" Maritime on the Great Lakes of Africa

The 200,000 fisherman that work on Lake Victoria will soon have the opportunity to use mobile phones to call for help if they get into trouble on the world's second largest inland lake. Pan-Africa mobile operator Celtel, a subsidiary of Zain, and Ericsson, in an initiative coordinated by the GSMA's Development Fund, have committed to extend the mobile networks across the Lake Victoria region, fuelling economic and social development of the lakeside communities and potentially reducing the number of fishing-related deaths each year.

Zain and Ericsson are upgrading Celtel's existing infrastructure and building an additional 21 radio sites to provide mobile coverage up to 20 kilometers into the lake. This will take about six months and ensure mobile coverage to over 90 percent of the fishing zones, where up to 5,000 people die each year from accidents and piracy.

The project will use Ericsson's Extended Range software package to more than double the effective range of radio base stations and Ericsson's Mobile Position
System, a location-based service that enables emergency authorities to
triangulate the mobile signal of fishermen in distress. Ericsson's green site solutions, including solar and hybrid power* solutions, will also be utilized to provide electric power to the base stations in the more remote island areas.

Personally, I would like to see the idea extended even further to better co-operation between mobile operators and radio stations serving those communities. With many mobiles having FM radios in them, as well as all having SMS capability, you could imagine the same system being used for weather warnings (or piracy reports) by radio stations in the area. Fishermen could then subscribe to weather warnings and/or news reports via SMS or listen at certain times for the "shipping forecast".
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