Deutsche Telekom Reaches for the Sky

Deutsche Telekom Successfully Tests Aerial Antenna

Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s largest telecommunications provider, successfully tested an aerial base station in the stratosphere. These stations have a wingspan as large as a Boeing (BA) 747 aircraft, but they only weigh about 3.5 metric tons. The test involved remotely piloting a station with an antenna on board.

When the aircraft reached 45,000 feet, the antenna was connected to a 4G network on the ground. Over the course of the test, the airborne station handled video calls, data downloads, and more. It was able to cover an area of 87 miles across.

The Advantages of Aerial Antennas

Deutsche Telekom hopes this type of technology will be able to provide mobile coverage to rural areas. This is important, because often remote locations can be hard to reach with ground-based networks.

Additionally, aerial antennas may be an important component for developing 5G-powered technologies such as self-driving cars because of the fast reaction times they provide.

Logistical Challenges

The possibilities for aerial antennas are exciting. They are faster and in some ways more cost-effective than coverage through satellites. However, keeping them in the air has proved to be logistically challenging. A number of companies have developed a variety of aerial antenna strategies.

Loon, a startup incubated in Google’s (GOOGL) research lab, is working on high-altitude balloons to run wireless networks. Facebook (FB) was working on solar-powered drones for aerial antennas, but has paused the project. Deutsche Telekom’s successful test is a significant benchmark for aerial base station technology, and investors will be eager to see what steps the company will take next.

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