Deutsche Telekom said it has tested LTE voice and data connectivity over a flying platform at the edge of the Earth’s stratosphere, in partnership with Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL). The test showed download speeds of 70 Mbps and upload speeds of 20 Mbps in the 2.1 GHz range over a bandwidth of 10 MHz. The connectivity was fully integrated into the commercial mobile network.
The test started in Bavaria, Germany, with a remote-controlled aircraft system at an altitude of approximately 14 kilometers (Flight Level 450). The company wanted to establish voice and data connections via antennas installed on the aircraft to enable voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) calls, video calls, data downloads and web browsing on a standard smartphone. The smartphone was connected to the terrestrial mobile network of DT via the antennas on the aircraft. SPL is cooperating with other partners on the development of a hydrogen-powered and remote-controlled aircraft.
It’s not only 5G development that’s cutting-edge these days. Deutsche Telekom is taking 4G/LTE to the edge of the stratosphere, pushing the envelope of its network’s connectivity to bring mobile services to high-flying special-use planes. This project shows that while 5G is key to the future of mobile technology, there is still plenty of room left for growth in current-generation networks, particularly where new applications and regions of use are concerned.
As smartphones penetrate ever-further into every aspect of life, no matter how specialized or high-tech, it is a good strategy for mobile operators to help make them compatible with as many applications as possible. Pilots and crew on aircraft flying at extremely high altitudes, beyond where commercial flights fly, still want to use their smartphones and to have them integrated into the terrestrial networks. By making this available, DT is not only meeting the needs of the moment but also advertising its own capabilities in an unusual realm. It is extremely good publicity for the operator that it partnered with a technology developer to create this network instead of leaving it to a specialized non-MNO entity.
In a separate development, Nokia is partnering with U.S. space agency NASA and Intuitive Machines to put a low-power, space-hardened 4G/LTE network on the moon by 2022.