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NTT Docomo and Airbus demo shows HAPS can move over mountains for 5G and 6G 

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High altitude platform stations (HAPS) extend range of 5G and 6G

Airbus and Japan’s NTT Docomo have shown they can deliver wireless broadband with a high-altitude platform station (HAPS) using a solar powered radio transmitter.

The success of the trial has encouraged aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus and mobile operator NTT Docomo that they can proceed to create communications services in mountainous areas, remote islands and maritime areas where radio waves are difficult to reach. HAPS will extend the range of both 5G and 6G, NTT Docomo said. 

Solar powered radio transmitter

In 18-day stratospheric flights the UK-built solar-powered Zephyr S radio transmitter succeeded in providing a datalink, as testers simulated future direct-to-device connectivity. Tests were run using a variety of bandwidths in order to approximate the type of direct-to-device service that could run from the HAPS to the end users when using low, nominal and high throughput.

The demonstration confirmed the viability and versatility of the 2 GHz spectrum for HAPS-based mobile comms services. It is also an endorsement of the viability of using narrow (450 MHz) band to create connections at a range of up to 140km.

HAPS will enable the apps 

The exercise was a measure of the effectiveness of HAPS, said Docomo’s Takehiro Nakamura. Direct communication to smartphones, through long-term propagation measurements using 'actual HAPS equipment', was a particularly important outcome, Nakamura said. Based on the success of these trials, Docomo is keen to investigate further into the practical application of HAPS in 5G evolution and 6G. 

“Docomo believes that HAPS will be a promising solution for coverage expansion in 5G evolution and 6G,” said Docomo’s Takehiro Nakamura.

 In October 2020 NTY Docomo was the first  mobile operator in the world to demonstrate a working example of 5G carrier aggregation in a multi-vendor RAN.