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EE using 'pre-5G' technology to connect mini masts on balloons

Tuesday, June 13th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Mobile technology described as “an important stepping stone to 5G” will help EE deliver 4G services to rural areas and disaster zones.

The operator is using what it calls ‘pre-standard 5G’ backhaul to connect its Helikite air mast – a helium balloon that provides 4G coverage in not spots, where extra capacity is needed and where permanent sites have been damaged.

The use of pre-5G backhaul allows the Helikite to deliver faster 4G speeds and also lowers latency. It will be able to keep more people connected and give them faster internet connections.

EE first demonstrated its air mast balloons and drones earlier this year and is currently waiting on patents for the technologies, which will help provide back up for the new emergency services network when it is launched by EE next year.

Mansoor Hanif, director of coverage network solutions at BT, said: “We always want to be there where our customers need us most, at the moment they need us most.

“That’s why we designed the initial Helikite solution, which can be set up very quickly and provide wide area coverage to replace the areas impacted.

“We showed a few months ago how we can do that over 4G and we showed that we can use various ways of connecting back to the network over satellite and in-bound backhaul.

“But when we looked at what we were doing here at BT labs we realised we could do a lot more putting together the proof of concept and trials we’ve been doing on pre-5G with the existing 4G solution.”

'More powerful'

EE chief executive Marc Allera said: “Innovation is what drives advances in technology, and it’s what keeps making UK consumers’ experience of mobile better and better.

“We know that we need better solutions to keep customers connected in the most rural parts of the UK and during disasters, and we can make that solution even more powerful by developing ground-breaking pre-standard 5G technology.

“This is not 5G, but it is a technology that’s an important stepping stone to 5G. We’re working hard to adopt the principles and the technologies that will become 5G and to showcase what benefits these can bring to our customers.”

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