It’s a well-known problem: When disaster strikes, it’s tough to get in touch with loved ones and make sure they’re okay. And ironically enough, the disaster itself doesn’t have to damage a network’s cell towers to cause this issue; cell towers simply can’t handle the traffic of everyone in the area trying to connect all at once. Text messages may not go through, and a call that actually does may get dropped after only few seconds. We rely on connectivity 24/7 in this modern age, making experts work more rapidly for solutions that stop and even prevent cell towers from overloading in crucial situations.

According to the progress made with research, the secret will eventually lie in utilizing radio and television signals. It also requires the use of phones with “smart antennas.” Some phones possess multiple types of antennas, mainly because various devices utilize different means of communication, including cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, near field communication and other technologies. Unfortunately, these signals can sometimes undermine one another. Perhaps you’ve noticed your smartphone dropping calls when someone else’s flip phone is working just fine. Of course, these crossed signals can work the opposite way too, with you sometimes finding yourself as being the only person with reception.

The secret is to use the second instance to the advantage of the cell network. Rather than having calls dropped because of too many phones trying to connect at once, the idea is to use different types of connections to boost power. The cellular industry had to be fine-tuned to ensure that cell signals didn’t interfere with TV and radio channels. But what if, in an emergency situation, there was a failsafe that allowed mobile users to interfere with other airwaves to make that all-important phone call? This may be the future of mobile usage—and even data connectivity—as we know it.