The British multinational telecommunications company BT Group and Stratospheric Platforms (SPL) have partnered to trial a new antenna technology using High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) aircraft to extend 4G and 5G coverage in the UK. Both companies say the technology can be a helpful solution in getting coverage to the hardest-to-reach areas.
The trials funded by Innovate UK, being conducted at Adastral Park, BT's global Research and Development headquarters, aim to tackle one of the remaining challenges in mobile connectivity. They hold the potential to revolutionize opportunities for Industries operating in remote areas like transport, maritime security, and search and rescue, as well as offer faster and smoother connectivity directly to consumers' mobile devices in remote areas.
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Backup for terrestrial Networks
Additionally, the HAPS solution could serve as a backup for terrestrial networks in case of a catastrophe and aid in disaster relief efforts. It also has the potential to enhance remote monitoring across a range of industrial and agricultural scenarios, thereby increasing operational efficiency.
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Tim Whitley, Managing Director Research and Network Strategy, BT Group, said: "We're delighted to be partnering with SPL to start realizing the huge potential of HAPS aircraft to further strengthen our UK 4G and 5G network technology leadership. This highly innovative and transformative project has the potential to further enhance our UK 4G and 5G footprint, which is already the largest and most reliable in the UK, to connect unserved rural areas and enable exciting new use cases for private users."
Richard Deakin, CEO, SPL commented: "The SPL team is excited to be working with BT Group to further advance its breakthrough UK-developed technology. This partnership will build further on SPL's world-first 5G demonstration from the stratosphere achieved in 2022. With BT, we're pleased to continue our journey supporting the UK to become a science super-power."
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4G and 5G Speeds Reached
SPL's innovative antenna technology promises to bring seamless 4G and 5G connectivity directly to consumers' smartphones. Its phased array antenna boasts speeds that can reach up to 150 Mbps, covering an area as vast as 140 km or 15,000 square km - the area equivalent to the average footprint of 450 terrestrial masts - through 500 individually controllable beams.
The High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) solution can bring both high performance and cost-effectiveness. Its phased array antenna can offer fast, uninterrupted 4G and 5G connectivity to consumers' smartphones, while the hydrogen-powered flight platform enables sustainable coverage of vast areas. This eliminates the need for costly terrestrial infrastructure expansion in remote regions, resulting in substantial cost and energy savings.