June 29, 2006:
Noting the success of the American military in quickly setting up Internet access in combat, or disaster, zones, Internet equipment manufacturer Cisco, has developed "Internet in a box" (actually a large suitcase.) This NetHope Relief Kit (or Mobile Communications Kit) contains a small satellite dish, and all the electronics needed to establish an Internet link via satellite, and distribute Internet access locally via wired or wireless networking. Prototypes of the kits have been undergoing field use for the last two years, and bugs have been worked out. Using the kit, it takes less than half an hour to set up a local network, and most of that time is spent getting the satellite dish properly aimed at a communications satellite. The kit can use AC or DC power, and is meant to quickly establish communications during the first day or two after a disaster. But in peacekeeping operations, the kit can function indefinitely to support operations.
Cisco continues to upgrade the kit design, which currently costs about $5,000 to build. The kit comes with four Internet ready phones, which allows the satellite Internet link to be used to make phone calls anywhere in the world. The first kit was designed with the help of several international relief organizations. NGOs, including peacekeeping operations, are the main market for the Mobile Communications Kit.