EE Air Masts to cover 4G ‘black spots’
EE has unveiled it’s new airborne technology – Air Masts also formally known as ‘Helikites’. Each balloon is powered by helium and can accommodate mini masts used to provide mobile coverage to areas with little or no 4G reception.
“When we look at our network, rural areas are where most of the work and focus is now needed. But it’s also where it’s the hardest. Connecting rural Britain is one of the hardest things we have to do,”
– EE CEO Marc Allera.
The new tech is made up of 3 pieces:
The heli-kite hovers up to 300 feet in the air and can provide 4G coverage over a 4km circumference. It can be deployed in around an hour, and is tethered to the ground from a solid base.
The tether also provides power to the balloon, and interestingly this is delivered as digital power in the form of packets, lessening the danger if the tether should be cut while in use.
The drone is the fastest deployment option, at 15 minutes, although has a smaller range at 1km. EE said this would be ideal for short-term coverage, ideally for emergency services teams working in a remote area.
There’s still a while to go with patents and further testing that should begin later this year. However wider deployment of the Air Mast balloons may not happen until 2018 or 2019.