Alphabet and SoftBank’s solar-powered drone provides first LTE connection

From The Verge: Airborne cell towers have a number of advantages over their terrestrial brethren. They can cover a greater geographic area and be moved to where they’re needed. But while the concept is years old, the technology is still under development.

Today, though, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Japanese tech giant SoftBank announced a minor milestone in their efforts to make flying cell towers a reality, running a stable LTE connection from a solar-powered drone 62,000 feet high in the stratosphere. It was a good enough connection to support an international video call, with participants from Japan and America, including Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers of the internet.”

The test is part of a partnership between Alphabet’s Loon and SoftBank’s HAPSMobile that was first announced in April 2019. Loon, which is best known for its balloon-based cell towers, provides the communications payload, while HAPSMobile builds the aircraft.

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