The study will investigate how the unmanned aerial system Airbus Zephyr and wireless communication networks NTT, NTT Docomo, and Sky Perfect JSAT will work in order to test HAPS connectivity, identify practical applications, develop required technologies, and launch space-based wireless services.
In the global push to further advance 5G and eventually introduce 6G, initiatives are under way to expand coverage worldwide, including in the oceans and in the air.
Such initiatives will include HAPS, which fly in the stratosphere about 20km above the earth, and non-terrestrial network (NTN) technologies using geostationary-orbit (GEO) satellites and low Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites.
NTT claims HAPS networks are an easy solution for air and sea connectivity and an effective platform for deploying disaster countermeasures and many industrial applications. The provision of space-based radio access network services using NTN technologies, collectively called Space RAN (radio access network), is expected to support coverage and improved disaster resistance as well as enhanced 5G and 6G.
In addition, HAPS platforms can also interconnect to the nearest terrestrial network gateway and extend the reach of existing mobile services directly to end-user devices, providing service options such as rural, emergency and maritime connectivity.
The four companies will discuss and identify possible future developments to unlock future HAPS-based connectivity services, lobby for standardisation and institutionalisation of HAPS operations, and explore business models for commercialising HAPS services.
The study will tackle the applicability of HAPS for mobile connectivity on the ground and base station backhaul, the performance frequency bands in HAPS systems, the considerations for linking HAPS with satellites and ground base stations, and establishing a system to test a network combining NTN technology, satellite, and HAPS.
This collaboration comes on the heels of a propagation test conducted by Docomo and Airbus to examine the ground and the Zephyr S HAPS aircraft in the stratosphere last 15 November 2021, demonstrating the possibility of providing stable communication with such a configuration.
This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 18 January 2022.