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Deutsche Telekom heads to the stratosphere

A standard smartphone was used to test voice over LTE (VoLTE) calls, video calls, data downloads and web browsing in the trial that took place at 45,000 feet.

Deutsche Telekom has completed a successful test of an aerial base station in the earth’s stratosphere, as it aims to expand mobile coverage to remote areas that current ground-based networks fail to reach.

The company partnered with British start-up Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL) to conduct the world’s first successful demonstration of LTE/4G voice and data connectivity over a platform flying at the edge of the stratosphere and fully integrated into a commercial mobile network.

They conducted a number of test flights in Bavaria with a remote-controlled aircraft system at an altitude of approximately 45,000 feet (Flight Level 450) to establish voice and data connections via the antennas installed on the aircraft.

As part of the test, a standard smartphone was used to for voice over LTE (VoLTE) calls, video calls, data downloads and web browsing. During the test, the smartphone was connected to Deutsche Telekom’s terrestrial mobile network. It showed download speeds of 70 Mbps and upload speeds of 20 Mbps in the 2.1 GHz range over a channel bandwidth of 10 MHz.

“We have shown that we can bring fast internet and connectivity anywhere in the future. The combined know-how of SPL and Telekom’s mobile communications expertise is the basis for this new technology,” said Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, managing director of Deutsche Telekom’s subsidiary Deutsche Funkturm. “Particularly in areas that are difficult to access with traditional mobile masts, flying base stations will be a useful and cost-efficient addition to our mobile communications network.”