Facebook's HAPS Flight Demonstration Promises Efficient Mobile Backhaul Connectivity

HAPSMobile, a subsidiary of SoftBank, is helping Facebook develop a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS). The two companies are collaborating to accelerate the development and adoption of HAPS communication technologies. The companies share a vision of leveraging HAPS systems to build stable Internet connectivity environments at locations unserved by telecommunication networks, including mountainous terrain, remote islands and developing countries.

On August 8, 2019, the companies conducted a flight demonstration in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, with a small general aviation aircraft flying at an altitude of 4km was equipped with Facebook’s advanced communication system. The test flight utilized the same 26 GHz and 38 GHz HAPS spectrum bands that will be considered for HAPS at the WRC-19 (World Radio Conference) in Egypt in October 2019. The flight demonstration showcased how the HAPS system could provide mobile backhaul to enable mobile operators to extend broadband connectivity to rural areas that have either been entirely unserved due to lack of backhaul or allow them to upgrade 2G or 3G base stations to today’s broadband speeds given this source of high capacity backhaul.

The two companies will continue to promote HAPS spectrum ahead of the WRC held by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) this fall.