In Addition to Terrestial Towers and Satellites: Aerial “Super Towers” and Balloons

The ST-Flex “SuperTower”

This is an aerial tethered tower with a maximum flight altitude of a 1000 ft (305 m) and a helium top off interval of 7+ days.

The “SuperTower” uses an aerostat platform, combined with automation and control software, to deploy radios and antennas over four times higher than traditional cell towers allowing carriers to efficiently cover substantially more area than traditional towers.  

Altaeros Launches ST-Flex™, Portable Rapid Response Aerial Cell Tower

High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS)

According to the International Telecommunications Union, HAPS are “stations located on an object at an altitude of 20-50 kilometres and at a specified, nominal, fixed point relative to the Earth”. HAPS fly in the stratosphere, above the altitude of commercial aircraft and violent winds.

HAPS are remotely controlled using AI and machine learning to ‘ride’ stratospheric winds and ensure they’re optimally located to guarantee coverage and connectivity.

Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s mother company), already provided telecommunications services after disasters in Peru and Puerto Rico, and signed a partnership with Telkom Kenya in 2018 to provide coverage over an area of 5000 square kilometres. The balloons were launched in summer 2019 and the company obtained regulatory approval in March 2020 to start its mission. Mozambique will be the next commercial launch together with Vodacom.  

Loon is also at the centre of the HAPS Alliance, which was founded in February 2020. Its objectives are to lobby for the uptake of HAPS solutions, promote the creation of a cooperative ecosystem, and influence emerging commercial standards.

We’re operating a fleet of floating cell towers,” Zohaib Mian, head of systems engineering for Loon said during the Sept. 2 “Automated Operations in the Stratosphere” webinar, hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Representatives from Loon and GSMA Intelligence highlight the multi-billion dollar market offered by communications in the stratosphere, discussing the challenges and opportunities ahead:

‘UFO’ in Congo jungle turns out to be internet balloon

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – An unidentified flying object parachuted into dense Congo jungle to the confusion of local authorities, who detained two people for questioning until a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet confirmed the device was an internet balloon. Read more at the link below:

Remote aircraft ‘can cover area 140km across’ with 4G and 5G, says DT

Deutsche Telekom has demonstrated high-speed 4G mobile transmission from a remotely powered aircraft in a project to test ways to expand rural coverage.

The company worked with London-based Stratospheric Platforms (SPL), a remotely powered aircraft specialist in which Deutsche Telekom is the largest shareholder.

Richard Deakin, CEO of SPL, said: “We are looking forward to demonstrating our 5G antenna which will shortly be ready for stratospheric flight testing.” Read more at the link below:


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