UK basestation-in-the-sky startup emerges from stealth

UK basestation-in-the-sky startup emerges from stealth

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

A UK developer of an autonomous flying basestation has emerged from stealth mode with a key demonstration.

Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL) in Cambridge is developing an electric high altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) and has successfully demonstrated high-speed 4G connectivity from the stratosphere into a live telecommunications network.

The demonstration of the technology with its largest shareholder Deutsche Telekom (DT) over Bavaria using a remotely piloted H3Grob 520 aircraft at an altitude of 14km (45,000ft) with an LTE antenna, with architecture compatible with 5G standalone. This delivered signals to user equipment at the 2.1 GHz frequency band.  A Voice over LTE (VoLTE) call, video call, data call, and video streaming were demonstrated on a standard smartphone and linked into the DT terrestrial live network with download speeds of 70Mbps and upload speeds of 23Mbps over a 10 MHz bandwidth.

Unlike solar-powered HAPS designs such as the Airbus Zephyr or Facebook Aquila, the SPL platform under development would use a hydrogen fuel cell to provide enough power for the basestation.

The fuel cell has been tested on the ground, and provides 290kW of power, with 20kW for the basestation. The key to acting as a “Mast in the sky” is a massive 9m2 digital steerable phased array antenna with 2048 dual polarisation phased array transceivers. This is equivalent to around 500 terrestrial antennas and even with 4G provides a 5G latency of around 1ms.

The beam steering allows for a configurable cell 100km in diameter that can target areas of low coverage, such as radio ‘shadows’. While the Zephyr or Aquila HAPS can stay aloft for over a year, the SPL platform has a limited mission time of around nine days on its tank of hydrogen.

“This is the worldwide unveiling of Stratospheric Platforms,” said Richard Deakin, Chief Executive Officer of Stratospheric Platforms Limited.

Next: Coming out of stealth

“We have operated quietly for the last five years to ensure that we significantly de-risked the key technologies before revealing the company to the world.”

“Our lead partner Deutsche Telekom, has now completed a world’s first proof of concept trial on our behalf using LTE/4G telecoms services and we are looking forward to demonstrating our 5G antenna which will shortly be ready for stratospheric flight testing.  We will be working with our partners and others over the next few years to bring this to operational deployment around 2024 with key benefits that distinguish our solution from all other competition and a significant cost advantage, which allows the telecommunication companies to provide users, wherever they are, with a unparalleled high quality customer experience.”

“SPL’s unique technology will enable us to deliver to all our customers, wherever they are located, a true broadband experience.  We welcome other investors to join us on this journey to cost-effectively address the challenges of broadband roll-out,” said Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, member of Stratospheric Platform’s Board for Deutsche Telekom and Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Funkturm.

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