Better cell service for responders when COWs fly

Better cell service for responders when COWs fly

AT&T believes that first responders will get better and faster cellular connectivity on the scene when COWs fly.

AT&T’s flying COWs, or cell on wings, is still in the idea stage of development, Art Pregler, an unmanned aircraft systems program director at the company, said in an email, but it “is likely that flying COWs will be easier to deploy, especially if roads are inaccessible during disaster scenarios. This would allow the equipment to be deployed in rough terrain and space-constrained environments.”

Conventional COWs, or cell on wheels, are portable mobile sites that communications providers can drive into a natural disaster or remote site to provide temporary network and wireless coverage or to increase capacity for special events.

AT&T’s flying COWs could be mounted on drones able to fly over disaster zones where cell sites have been knocked out, for example, according to an Android Headlines article. The idea holds promise because it would give AT&T a responsive, flexible network that can be quickly deployed to cover events or disasters in areas that wheeled vehicles can’t access.

The company already uses drones to more frequently and safely inspect cell towers, according to a blog post Pregler wrote. Connecting drones to AT&T’s LTE network lets the company make changes to the network in real time using the data the devices collect.

“The primary benefit of a flying COW to the public safety community could be rapid cellular connectivity and communications in locations where this connectivity does not otherwise exist, either through the remoteness of the location, or after a natural disaster that may render other networks temporarily inoperable,” he said.

Because cellular carriers already use cells on wheels to increase bandwidth at major events such as concerts, AT&T’s plans to put those capabilities in the sky is the next logical next step, the Android Headlines article stated. 

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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