Message Phone

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet can afford to access the sum of all human knowledge.

The Message Phone will create that world.

Was entered in Google Contest October 2008

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I have entered the Message Phone in the Google contest to improve the world

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Message Phone uses 10 of the top 20 innovations of the past 30 years.

Message Phone will provide internet access

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What is a Message Phone?

A Message Phone is a device to solve a problem . .

(Picture is of a mockup made in 2008)

Why is it that..90% of the people live near cell phone towers . . (green)

but only 60% have cell phones (orange)


Nearly half the world’s people cannot afford cell phones

Cell phone used by people with high income

People with low income cannot afford cellphones

The Message Phone will bring cheap communications to 2 billion people earning less than $10 / day

Message phone (blue region) will provide communications affordable by people making less than $10 per day

How can the Message Phone be so cheap?


Fewer - far fewer - antennas

. . only 3 cover the whole Indian subcontinent

Map of Indian subcontinent - showing that 3 antennas provide coverage to
India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and most of Pakistan

The Message Phone could improve the world for 2 billion people

For more information you can get to my web site

Search: henry message phone

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Entry into Google Contest - which is augmented with supporting references

The Message Phone is a new technology to provide extremely cheap, reliable 2-way voice communications to 2 billion people around the world who cannot afford cell phones.

The Message Phone consists of an antenna complex and handsets. It provides 2-way voice communications, as does a cell phone, but not in real time(0). The closest analogy is telephone voice messaging, where there is a slight delay in reception. Message Phone messages can run from a few seconds to several hours, and be stored in the handset. The Message Phone connects to other Message Phones, cell phones, wired telephones, and the Internet.

The Message Phone is designed to be cheap. A single Message Phone antenna site covers 3 million sq km - only three Message Phone antennas would initially be needed to cover the Indian subcontinent. By comparison, at least 7,000 (0.a) cell phone antennas would be required for all of the Indian subcontinent - much more costly to build and maintain.

The Message Phone handset, not having a display, is ultra-cheap; it is also unbreakable, simple-to-use, nearly radiation-free, solar-powered, has GPS, and is completely voice-controlled. Costs are slashed even further by using the Internet to communicate non-local messages.

The Message Phone handset should cost 1/10th that of the cell phone when amortized over 10 years (1). The service cost should run 1/10th of cell phone for peak use, 1/50th for off-peak use.

The Message Phone can also be used to augment current cell phone service, since there will be no dead zones, and messages can be sent and received in rural areas, on airplanes, offshore, etc. Four antennas would cover the entire lower 48 US States plus southern Canada.

All the technologies for the Message Phone exist now (1.a), so development will be easy and cheap. The meteor burst technology (2) it exploits has been in use for 40 years.

The Message Phone is expected to return its investment and be profitable within a very few years, while providing incredibly affordable voice communications throughout the world.

What problem or issue does your idea address?

Over 1/3 of the people of the world (3) lack 2-way voice communications other than face-to-face; many are essentially cut off from the world and from each other, isolated without telephones or computers. Others have access to village phones (4), but a single 5-minute conversation  (5) on a village phone costs an entire day’s wage (6) for 1 billion people. Most of the poor and ultra poor will never be able to afford an individual cell phone. There are other areas, as in the rural US, where people can afford cell phone service, but it is either no longer available or not cost-effective to provide. Even the service that exists is often spotty, with dead zones and poor service during storms and power outages. Cell phones can’t be used in many situations, such as inside buildings, in theaters, on airplanes, or at sea. Cell phones are only available in about 100 of 5000 languages (7).

If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how?

Literally billions of people would receive the benefits of voice communications to raise their standard of living and connect to each other and to the world. Individuals and families with an income as low as $1/2 to $1 per day could learn, get entertainment, share ideas and friendship, job, market and health information – all the benefits of modern-age communications, in their own language. Providers would also profit.

The Message Phone is a viable alternative to the cell phone, enabling extremely affordable 2-way communication for poor people, people lacking electricity or cell phone service, and people who need reliable communications at all times, such as elderly shut-ins, emergency and health workers, and the military. It extends many of the benefits of the Internet (8) (9) to people lacking computers. The Message Phone is truly a case of "millions for billions" – a few millions of dollars to benefit billions of people.

What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground?

Do an independent engineering feasibility study. Then secure a contractor to prototype the communications software for the antenna site and the electronics for the handset, specifying basic parameters and which country to use for the initial test. The initial setup would require a single tower located at a site having electricity, Internet connectivity, and easy physical access, probably near an urban area. The team would also need to secure approval by the country’s government to share appropriate radio frequencies (10). The contractor might explore the possibility of having people donate time to develop some of the software to save costs. The prototype should be completed in approximately 2 years for $2 million. More development is still needed prior to world-wide deployment. Costs will be recovered by licensing to companies around the world.

Development should go smoothly, since 24 companies and several military (11) organizations are using meteor burst communications technology now.

Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it?

The Message Phone has been developed and deployed throughout the world. It has improved lives and helped raise the standard of living in many countries. Many people’s incomes have risen (11a) so much that they can now afford cell phones, though these still aren’t available in most rural areas. Google has 2 billion more customers, listening to the Internet and using services such as Goog411. The GDP of every developing country that has introduced Message Phones has risen ˝% each year (12) for every 10% increase in the population communicating electronically. (Studies show this effect following introduction of cell phones.) More people now remain in their villages, reducing the pressure on swelling urban ghettoes. The educational level of the average 16-year-old has improved. Artisans and farmers (13) sell their products around the world. Finally, even people with cell phones have a cheap, reliable alternative to use any time, anywhere.

Henry Lahore: Electronic and Systems Engineer, retired from Boeing.     I did this to give back to society
     more about me at my home page 

Supporting references  designated by (xx) - which could not fit in the Google word count limitation

0. Low bit rate speech encoding is possible when encoding does not have to be in real time. (can look at more data) and if it can use templates
    While cell phones use approx 6,000 bits per second, Message Phone assumes 2,000 bits per second.
    One patented device uses only 100 bits per second
    The Message Phone voice packets assume large latency between packets, similar to the much faster GPRS described in WikiPedia

    By not supporting real-time conversations the Message Phone
        I) Requires fewer bits to encode a message
       II) Can re-transmit a packet if there is noise such as lightning during the original transmission
      III) Can eliminate peaks needs by delaying packets for a few seconds 
      IV) Reduces the need for the receiver to respond immediately - a chance to think about a reply, smooth out the load on operators, et.

0.a Original submission to Google stated Message Phone coverage would be the same as 30,000 cell towers. Three Message Phone towers for the Indian Subcontinent actually have the coverage of just 7,000 cell towers since the circles shown include coverage of other countries and significant portions of the Indian Ocean.

1 Message phone can have a 10 year lifetime. It would not have any display, keyboard, connector or hinge to break. 
   It will use  a nanotech battery, the A123, which is being developed for Black and Decker and for some electric automobiles.

1a) The linked chart shows which technologies enable the Message Phone (example: 10,000 increase in cost effectiveness of computation in the part 20 years) and the subsequent beneficial effects.

2 MBC physics/principles, history WikiPedia
  Meteorcomm download PDFs
  Nice 2004 overview - but reference-only unless you have access to technical publications
  Best Meteor Based Communications book from 1993 Searchable in Google Books

  Troposcatter at 50MHz (same as MBC)  Radio amateurs
  2002 Review of RF transmission technologice - including MBC, troposcatter
  Overview of MBC for Europe 2002   alternate term for "Meteor Burst" is Meteorscatter

3 Four billion cell phones anticipated to be in use by Dec 2008.
   The biggest growth in mobile usage is coming from China and India, which have significantly higher GDP than other countries. 

4 Village phone – in 1,000's of villages 1 cell phone is shared by 500 people.
   New York Times 2005

5 Average phone call is 5 minutes long, NationMaster shows the cost of 3 min call around the world   Average daily US use in 2008 was 25 minutes
    Nationmaster also had World Bank estimation of cost of a 'basket' of cell phone usage for most countries. Average of $12.30

6 Cost of telephone and computer average is 6% of income around the world, but varies from a minimum of 3% to a maximum of 15%
  Many places, including  2003 ICT   FCC Aug 2008

7  WikiPedia # of languages ,   Nokia in 2006 had cell phones in 68 languages   but only 8 of the 14 official languages of India, 5% of languages (250) are spoken by 94% of the world  Tone languages difficult for Automatic Voice Recognition: Many of the 2,000 African languages are tonal. 885 million are illiterate  476 million of which are speaker of minority languages, many of which have no written form anyway. LG has at least one voice controlled phone  Fewer than 100 of languages/dialects are now supported by Voice Recognition software. Voice Recognition required a lot of work to support a new language. The Message Phone would use Utterance Recognition not Voice Recognition.
Utterance Recognition is language independent and easily adjusts to the gradual changes of the speech of a user. Example: Patent application 2005

8 The Message Phone will permit users to request audio versions of text from the web - similar to audio-only use of the web by the blind. Users could request news, weather, sports, wikipedia files, language lessons, phone numbers, health information, etc. Users could get audio podcasts. Users could signup for a series of podcasts and news items as they become available - such as disaster warnings. The users could also author audio podcasts with their message phone. Such web access could be a free service, such as those by Google, or could have embedded advertisements, or be paid for.

9 Voice Web article in New Scientist Oct 2008   A Message Phone would be able to store at least 300 hours of audio per user.

10. The TV 'White spaces' are to be used. TV channel 2 or 3 - whichever is not used in an area.
    The Message Phone modulation being significantly different than both Digital and Analog TV will make greatly minimize possibility of interference.

11 Military Meteor Burst in post 2000 Era - abstract only
    Military view 1990  
   Previously classified paper on Meteor Burst Communications
What is the future of troposcatter in the Army:

11a Message Phone users can earn extra income incrementally by a variety of means: listen to advertisements, translate message, provide answers, provide referral service, etc. 
    Some of these are described by a service which started operation in Kenya in 2009

12 A 2005 study showed that a 10% increase in number of phones in a country resulted in a 0.6% increase in GDP
    BBC Feb 2007     PowerPoint Presentation by author  com

   Very complete analysis of ICT (Information and communication Technologies) For Development 2008 154 pages
        looks at every possible way ICT projects can benefit individuals, regions, and countries

13  NYT article April 07: Can Cell Phone End Global Poverty  BBC Feb 2007 article Mobile Phone Lifeline for the World's Poor
    How the poor used phones in 2006
   Nokia Life Tools 2009   Vodafone/UN April 2008  Wireless Technology for Social Change
   Economist 2007 article on Mobile Phones helping Fishermen:  Message Phone would operate 25x further away from shore   Excellent 10 minute Video showing how cell phones are used by people in rural India.
  Money flows between countries: poor people sending  money to even poorer families back home. NYT Nov 2007

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