In moments of crisis--natural disasters, floods, war---cell phones often fail us because the mobile phone infrastructure is inherently vulnerable to the disaster as well. This reality creates quite the conundrum for most those of us out there who view cell phones as an essential emergency tool. Australian researchers venture to solve this intrinsic weakness by introducing a system of cell phone networks that do not require cell phone towers. Rather, Serval, the towerless-mobile phone network, relies solely upon an independent (temporary) router system generated by wifi-enabled mobile phones. The key here is that any two phones that contain the Serval software can create a temporary network and allow voice transmissions without utilizing a mobile phone tower.
Paul Gardner-Stephen, a computer scientist at Flinders University who heads up the Serval project remarked that "It’s about bringing convenient and flexible telecommunications into situations where ordinarily it would be very difficult to do that.”
After having tested the software in a remote desert of Australia, the team is mostly thrilled with the development of the system. In the future they hope to expand the range of the Serval software so that calls can be made to phones outside of a 100 meter radius or so.