They came ashore after days in rough seas. They braved the elements and faced death in craft barely suitable to carry them the hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean. Upon reaching the Greek island of Lesbos during the height of Europe’s refugee crisis in 2015, part of the fallout from Syria’s civil war, they could at least have internet coverage and could use their smartphones; for many of them their only link with the outside world, and let loved ones know that they had survived possibly the most dangerous journey of their lives. This was made possible thanks to the work of the Vodafone Foundation, the charitable arm of the telecommunications multinational.
The firm was showcasing its communications products during the UK Security Exhibition being held in London between 28 November and 29 November. The internet access made possible for the refugees was facilitated through the foundation’s Internet-in-Box product. Put simply, this is built around a flight case which contains three wi-fi hubs. Each of these can provide internet access for up to 500 people, across ranges of circa 150 metres (450 feet), although this is dependent on local topography and propagation conditions. The case contains the wherewithal to provide the network, and connects to an external backhaul such as a satellite communications network, or 26/3G (second-generation/third-generation) LTE (Long Term Evolution) network to access the internet. It effectively acts as the gateway between the user and their device, and the internet. The whole ensemble can be run using a 220 watt external power source.