Innovate UK-funded project between Stratospheric Platforms Ltd. (SPL) and telecom giant BT is giving a much-needed boost to remote areas with the testing of an innovative antenna technology. The proposed aircraft has a wingspan of 60 meters for providing 4G/5G coverage and internet access over an area as wide as 15,000 square kilometers – through connection with its Open RAN testbed.
The testing at BT’s R&D headquarters promises to revolutionise data speeds and quality of experience for rural communities around the world, currently not well served by terrestrial networks. The implementation of High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (HAPS) aircraft will be able to significantly reduce the number of terrestrial towers usually required, in addition to providing high speeds, better latency performance than satellite services plus greater reliability comparing with ground based systems in conditions like bad weather or emergency scenarios.
In order to make the project a success, SPL is currently developing link technology including digital beamforming, initialising and position tracking. This will be operated using an automated e-band system, driven by software algorithms that ensure each HAPS aircraft adapts its beam angles on-the-fly to deliver service in motion or stationary scenarios; additionally adding further capacity through cloud based radio access networks (C-RAN).
This potential infrastructure overhaul has major implications for underprivileged populations who are unable to access traditional communication methods due to financial constraints or location. If successful, this could provide sorely needed opportunities such as telemedicine services or online education programs where it was previously impossible.
The prototype plane is anticipated for Q4 2024, with commercial service planned for late 2026; international telcos have already expressed significant interest due to this prominent advantage – all eyes on BT and SPL’s ambitious project!