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    Did Deutsche Telekom’s UK partner run a 5G network from the stratosphere on a Strategic Platform? Per HAPS

    By broadcasting from the stratosphere, Strategic Platforms sent 5G signals to every inch of Saudi Arabia's challenging terrain


    UK company Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), a partner of German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom (DT), ran a successful test 5G network from space on February 5th.

    This was the world’s first demonstration of the High-Altitude Platform System (HAPS) using aircraft to extend a 5G service, covering a geographical area of 450 km2.

    Saudi Arabia’s digital regulator CITC ran the trial and its governor Dr Mohammed Al-Tamimi praised this ‘great accomplishment for Saudi Arabia’s ICT sector’. “The deployment of HAPS in the Kingdom has been made possible by an enabling ICT ecosystem and strong government support. This puts us at the technological frontier globally and takes us closer to our Vision 2030 goal of extending high-quality ICT access to every part of the country,” said Al-Tamimi.

    HAPS are radio stations strapped to a craft that flies or floats in the stratospheric layer. SPL used a German-made, long-endurance Grob aircraft for the Saudi trial.

    While HAPS remains an emerging technology, it can potentially bring connectivity to areas that are not covered, or are only partially covered, by cellular networks.

    The high altitude gives the broadcasting craft complete omniscience and the lack of obstructions to its view creates a clear and evenly distributed signal. This gives HAPS extra powers to deliver signals for the Internet of Things, emergency communications, disaster recovery, temporary coverage for events and tourist hotspots and terrestrial site backhaul.

    “The success of the trial in Saudi Arabia’s western coast had many challenges,” said Richard Deakin, CEO of Stratospheric Platforms. “Now that the 5G HAPS technology has been proven, the question is one of further commercial development. This is why having a diverse consortium such as ours, which includes strong government support, is essential to the continued realization of the program.”

    Telco progress in Saudi Arabia is driven by the country’s Vision 2030, a ‘whole-of-society’ programme designed for economic diversification.

    Recent ICT initiatives include allocating more than 23 GHz of frequency spectrum for commercial and innovative uses, the launch of regulatory sandbox projects, open access for network operators. Saudi Arabia is the first country in EMEA to embrace the full-spectrum adoption of the WiFi-6e.Deutche Telekom partner