Deutsche Telekom delivered broadband LTE data rates during a trial assessing the potential of aircraft to deliver cost-effective connectivity in areas which are hard-to-reach with traditional infrastructure.

It conducted tests of voice and data calls using remote-controlled stratospheric aircraft flying over the region of Bavaria. The craft flew at a height of around 14 kilometres, with a standard smartphone used to complete VoLTE and video calls, data downloads and web browsing by connecting to Deutsche Telekom’s terrestrial mobile network.

Deutsche Telekom stated it achieved data rates of 70Mb/s in the downlink and 20Mb/s up, using a 10MHz block of 2.1GHz spectrum.

The operator was testing the ability of an aircraft to deliver connectivity spanning a diameter of up to 100 kilometres, stating this could help cover areas in “a radio shadow” caused by their geographic location.

“Particularly in areas that are difficult to access with traditional mobile masts, flying base stations will be a useful and cost-efficient addition to our mobile communications network”, Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CEO of the company’s Deutsche Funkturm subsidiary, noted.

The test was conducted in partnership with Stratospheric Platforms, which is developing a hydrogen-powered, remote-controlled aircraft scheduled to fly in mid-2022.