Unmanned aircraft tests cellular communications service from the stratosphere

Deutsche Telekom and its technology partner Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL) has conducted the world’s first successful demonstration of LTE/4G voice and data connectivity over an autonomous platform flying at the edge of the stratosphere and fully integrated into a commercial mobile network.

Several test flights were carried out in Bavaria in early October with a remote-controlled aircraft system at an altitude of approximately 14 km (Flight Level 450) to establish voice and data connections via the antennas installed on the aircraft. This enabled voice over LTE (VoLTE) calls, video calls, data downloads and web browsing on a standard smartphone. During the test, the smartphone was connected to the terrestrial mobile network of Telekom Deutschland via the antennas on the aircraft. The stratospheric test showed download speeds of 70 Mbps and upload speeds of 20 Mbps in the 2.1 GHz range over a channel bandwidth of 10 MHz.

Due to the high flight altitude and an almost unobstructed view of the ground, the unmanned vehicle used special antennas to supply radio cells with a diameter of up to 100 km, thereby supplementing the existing mobile phone network on the ground. Mobile radio use would be possible in the future, especially in areas that are currently in a radio shadow, e.g. due to geographical elevations, the so-called “white spots”. For customers, the transition of the connection from a classic cellular mast to a flying antenna happens smoothly in the background and unnoticed.

“We have shown that we can bring fast Internet and connectivity anywhere in the future. The combined know-how of SPL and Telekom’s mobile communications expertise is the basis for this new technology,” says Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, member of the SPL Board on behalf of Deutsche Telekom and Managing Director of Deutsche Telekom’s subsidiary Deutsche Funkturm. “Particularly in areas that are difficult to access with traditional mobile masts, flying base stations will be a useful and cost-efficient addition to our mobile communications network”.

SPL is working together with other partners on the development of a hydrogen-powered, remote-controlled aircraft, the associated communications payload and related ground-based infrastructure as well as orchestrating the production and service partner eco system required to deliver the technology in a commercial deployment. First flight is scheduled for mid 2022.

For more information visit:

www.telekom.com

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