Cell Phones For The Oceans

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For crews on those merchant and container ships, phoning home has meant using expensive satellite phones. But a new system is set to change that and allow them to make calls on their cell phones.

While the new system does rely on satellites, it will see picocells – small base stations that extend mobile coverage – installed in the crew areas of the ships, the BBC reports. They’ll convert mobile calls into narrowband IP signals that can be transmitted over the satellite network.

The new system has been developed by Irish company Blue Ocean Wireless and picocell developer ip.access, a company that has already placed the technology on cruise ships and ferries.

ip.access chief executive Stephen Mallinson said that bringing the technology to merchant ships will "bring the benefits of mobile cellular communication to seafarers who spend so much time away from friends and family."

Picocells have generally been used to boost coverage on land, within local areas such as buildings, but the will be used on British Airways aircraft from later this year.