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Airbus and DOCOMO test solar-powered Zephyr HAPS for 5G / 6G connectivity


Airbus and NTT DOCOMO recently demonstrated their ability to use their solar-powered Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) to provide future wireless broadband connectivity.

The test took place in the United States in August, when the Zephyr S aircraft performed approx. 18-day stratospheric flights to test various abilities.

Carrying an on-board radio transmitter, the Zephyr S provided an agile data link during stratospheric flight to simulate future direct connectivity to the device. Test data was captured at different altitudes and at different times of the day and night, focusing on evaluating how connectivity is affected in the stratosphere by factors such as weather conditions, different Elevation angles and flight patterns of airplanes.

The tests included various bandwidths to simulate direct to device service from HAPS to end users using low, nominal and high throughput. The demonstration confirmed the viability and versatility of the 2 GHz spectrum for HAPS based services as well as the use of a narrow band (450 MHz) to provide connectivity in a range of up to 140 km.

Measurement and analysis of the propagation of radio waves transmitted by Zephyr demonstrated the feasibility of stratospheric communications to devices such as smartphones. Based on the results of this experiment, Airbus and NTT DOCOMO aim to provide communication services to mountainous areas, isolated islands and sea areas where radio waves are difficult to reach.

As part of efforts to advance 5G and prepare for 6G, an “extension of coverage” to extend communications networks to any location, including air and sea, is in the pipeline. study around the world. To achieve this, non-terrestrial network (NTN) technology should be used. In addition to air and sea coverage, stratospheric HAPS networking will be useful for disaster preparedness and many industrial use cases, for example, to increase communication capacity in densely populated areas. such as event venues and to remotely control heavy equipment on construction sites.

The test data will be used to inform future direct-to-device LTE services that are expected to be delivered through the Airbus Zephyr HAPS solution.

Takehiro Nakamura, General Manager of DOCOMO’s 6G-IOWN Promotion Department
DOCOMO believes that HAPS will be a promising solution for extending coverage in the evolution of 5G and 6G. In this measurement experiment, we were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of HAPS, especially for direct communication with smartphones, through long-term propagation measurements using real HAPS equipment.

Stéphane Ginoux, SVP, Head of North Asia region for Airbus and President of Airbus Japan KK
Billions of people around the world suffer from poor or no connectivity. These tests show us the viability of the stratosphere to bridge that gap and provide direct connectivity to the device through Zephyr without the need for base stations or additional infrastructure.