Deutsche Telekom stated on Monday it had efficiently examined an aerial base station within the earth’s stratosphere, an innovation it hopes will convey cell protection to distant areas which can be onerous for ground-based networks to achieve.
The German telecoms group and its associate, British startup Stratospheric Platforms, stated a pilotless plane flying at 14,000 metres (45,000 toes) had succeeded in connecting with its terrestrial 4G community from an on-board antenna.
The airborne base station, which might cowl an space 100 km (62 miles) throughout, dealt with voice and video calls, information downloads and net shopping from a smartphone consumer on the bottom throughout trial flights earlier this month.
“We’ve got proven that we are able to ship quick web and connectivity wherever,” stated Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, chief government of Deutsche Telekom’s cell towers enterprise Deutsche Funkturm.
“Particularly in areas which can be onerous to achieve for conventional cell towers, aerial base stations can be a wise and cost-effective addition to our cell networks.”
Internet hosting base stations within the stratosphere guarantees the low latency that new 5G networks might want to assist improvements, equivalent to self-driving vehicles, the place quick response occasions are important.
However, whereas aerial antennas supply a pace and price benefit over satellites, maintaining them aloft poses a design problem.
Alphabet’s rival Loon enterprise makes use of high-altitude balloons to run wi-fi networks. Fb grounded an experimental solar-powered drone two years in the past after concluding it was not possible.
Deutsche Telekom’s take a look at flights have been staged over the southern state of Bavaria utilizing an tailored H3Grob 520 propeller aircraft, as Stratospheric Platforms remains to be creating its personal pilotless plane.
The UK startup says its light-weight, emission-free “platform” may have a wingspan of 60 metres, as huge as a Boeing 747, however weigh solely 3.5 tonnes and be capable of keep aloft for one to 2 weeks.
It’s going to use a hydrogen fuel-cell system that mixes liquid hydrogen and oxygen, producing larger output than photo voltaic cells and giving off solely water vapour as a waste product.
Richard Deakin, Chief Govt Officer of Stratospheric Platforms, stated he was working in direction of operational deployment “round 2024”.
The startup has been in stealth mode because it was based in 2014. Deutsche Telekom got here on board as an investor two years later, and now owns a 38 % stake.
Stratospheric Platforms stated it was now holding talks with different potential buyers over a so-called Sequence B funding spherical.
Companions for its aerial platform embrace Northrop Grumman and Thales whereas it’s working with QinetiQ and others on its hydrogen energy system.