Thinking Beyond the Sky Limit; Connectivity from the Stratosphere

Thinking Beyond the Sky Limit; Connectivity from the Stratosphere

High-altitude platform stations (HAPS) are easily deployable stations operating in the stratosphere that can provide a variety of connectivity services to end users on the ground. HAPS are high enough to provide services to a large area or to augment the capacity of other broadband service providers. With the advantage of height, one HAPS station can cover and therefore provide service over an area 20-30 times greater than a traditional ground-based mobile base station and at higher throughput and lower latency than satellites. Development of HAPS is expected to pave the way to connect more of the world’s people to the benefits of today’s digital economy, particularly in underserved communities and in rural and remote areas.

HAPS have a number of important use cases. The first one being, because they rely on minimal ground network infrastructure, HAPS technology can help extend mobile broadband networks into areas that do not have connectivity, including remote and hard-to-serve areas where there is no ground-based access to the service area. Second, HAPS may be used to provide emergency service in disaster situations when ground-based networks have been impacted or additional capacity is needed. Third, HAPS can be used to provide fixed wireless backhaul for industrial use cases, such as for high-speed backhaul or Internet-of-Things connectivity in the energy and agriculture sectors.

Following the 2nd ATU Task Group Meeting on Emerging Technologies, the need for harmonization of regulatory frameworks across the ATU Member States so as to permit innovative service providers to rapidly deploy equipment and services to facilitate emergency and non-emergency connectivity across Africa was highlighted. The Task Group also recommended that the spectrum policies should be flexible so that HAPS are not precluded from accessing spectrum or sharing spectrum with other platforms. Additional recommendations put forth by the Task Group that will enable the promotion of HAPS deployment in the continent will be reflected in the final outcome which is expected by April 2021.

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