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HAPSMobile and Loon Deliver 4G from Stratosphere

Last year, I wrote about how HAPSMobile is bringing connectivity from the sky for underserved, unserved areas as well as emergencies. Earlier this year we saw HAPSMobile and Loon Partner for Stratosphere-Based LTE Communications Solution. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that HAPSMobile and Loon have announced "First in the World to Deliver LTE Connectivity from a Fixed-Wing Autonomous Aircraft in the Stratosphere"


Selected extract of the press release as follows: 

SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile Inc. (“HAPSMobile”) and Alphabet’s Loon LLC (“Loon”) today announced they successfully tested their jointly developed communications payload in the stratosphere on HAPSMobile’s “Sunglider,” a solar-powered unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Taking place during Sunglider’s first stratospheric test flight at Spaceport America (SpA) in New Mexico on September 21 MT, the test marked the world’s first successful delivery of LTE connectivity from a fixed-wing High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) autonomous aircraft in the stratosphere.

The stratosphere-ready payload used in the test flight was a first-of-its-kind for a fixed-wing, autonomous aircraft-based HAPS to deliver LTE connectivity. Using MIMO technology, the payload enabled LTE connectivity to be delivered continuously for approximately 15 hours during Sunglider’s test flight. The payload performed as planned in the demanding conditions of the stratosphere, where wind speeds reached greater than 58 knots (approximately 30 meters per second) and temperatures were as low as -73 degrees Celsius.

During the test, the communications payload enabled a video call between Loon members and AeroVironment, Inc. (“AeroVironment”) team members with smartphones at SpA and HAPSMobile team members in Tokyo. The test system was composed of a service link from Sunglider using the 700MHz spectrum band (LTE Band28) and a feeder link between the aircraft and a ground gateway using millimeter wave spectrum*. Since the radio waves transmitted and received by Sunglider operate on the same frequencies as existing smartphones and devices, Loon and AeroVironment members in SpA were able to use regular smartphones to participate in the video call. During the test flight, smooth operations and connection speeds enabled high-definition, low-latency video calls.

* The service link used a 5MHz band of the 700MHz spectrum band for this test. In addition to an outdoor environment, the video call test was successful indoors.


Vint Cerf, recognized as one of the “Fathers of the Internet” and VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, LLC, and Jun Murai—known as the “Father of the Internet in Japan” and Professor at Keio University’s Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, and HAPSMobile External Director—also joined the video call and discussed HAPS’ significance for the future of the Internet.

During the test flight, HAPSMobile also conducted basic measurements of stratosphere-to-ground radio wave propagation data that will be used toward future contributions to the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) with a view to international standardization. With the valuable data and learnings that the teams collected during this test, HAPSMobile and Loon will be collectively working with ITU, 3GPP, regulators and telcos to further the already in progress work on HAPS. The test also provided insight into how HAPS could be used in disasters and alongside other lifesaving technologies.


In a recent Mobile World Live webinar, HAPSMobile laid out their roadmap which includes commercialization in 2023. This test flight is just the first step towards that. 

HAPSMobile & Loon are not the only one attempting to do the transmission of 4G/5G from space. Earlier this year, Rakuten and Vodafone have become the lead investors in AST & Science's SpaceMobile which aims to do the same.

Finally, here is a movie produced by HAPSMobile to explain their concept

Related post from HAPSMobile on Mobile World Live here.

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