Global companies Alphabet and SoftBank’s attempts to launch flying mobile phone aerials high into the atmosphere have received backing from global telcos, energizing lobbying efforts aimed at driving regulatory approval for the emerging technology.
The plan is to deliver high speed internet to remote areas by flying network equipment at high altitudes.
The devices fly in the stratosphere, which offers mild weather all year round and low latency, which is just 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, compared to satellites which even in low-orbit are at an altitude of 1,200 kilometers.
Lobbying efforts by the two firms, which formed an alliance last year, are being joined by companies including aerospace firm Airbus, network vendors Nokia, Ericsson , China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Bharti Airtel.
The expanded alliance announced in a joint statement aims to secure spectrum and promote uniform regulation and industry-wide standards for the high altitude vehicles, which carry network equipment on balloons and drones, which are both solar powered systems.
Such technology allows telecoms to extend coverage into hard-to-reach areas where there is low population density or geographical obstacles like mountains and maintain service after disasters.
HAPSMobile, the brainchild of SoftBank Corp’s Chief Technology Officer Junichi Miyakawa, aims to commercialize its services in 2023 and has been conducting low altitude test flights of its drones, which have a wingspan of almost 80 meters (87.49 yards), from a NASA facility in California. The solar-powered HAWK30 drone can currently only stay airborne all year round at latitudes of plus or minus 30 degrees from the equator, constraining its ability to operate in northerly countries like United States and Japan – although a planned future device will extend that to 50 degrees.