Cambridge Consultants building the world’s largest commercial airborne antenna

Breakthrough for Stratospheric Platforms Limited will beam 5G connectivity from the stratosphere 

November 02, 2020 – Cambridge Consultants, part of Capgemini, today announces a stratospheric breakthrough, revealing its role in a visionary program to realize the dream of superfast 5G for everyone and everything across the globe. Working in collaboration with Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), Cambridge Consultants’ remarkable technical achievement is a wireless antenna unlike anything seen before, delivering affordable connectivity from a fleet of zero emissions aircraft, airborne at an altitude of 20,000 meters for more than a week. Operating at a fraction of the cost of building and maintaining terrestrial infrastructure, and with minimal environmental impact due to its zero-emission hydrogen power system, such a fleet could rewrite the economics of mobile broadband.

With the proof of concept now complete, the ultimate antenna is set to be powerful, huge, and yet lightweight. At three meters square and weighing just 120kg, it will take flight to become what’s expected to be the world’s largest commercial airborne communications antenna.

The proof of concept antenna is the culmination of a four-year project with UK-based start-up SPL. Also headquartered in Cambridge, UK, SPL is developing a High-Altitude Platform (HAP) and communication system operating in the stratosphere to bring affordable, fast connectivity to every corner of the world. A single HAP will provide coverage over an area of up to 140 kilometres in diameter, equivalent to deploying hundreds of today’s terrestrial masts. A fleet of around 60 HAPs could blanket the whole of the United Kingdom with connectivity, providing even geographic coverage of peak 5G speeds in excess of 100 Gbps in aggregate. With radically cheaper costs, this new platform has the potential to connect the unconnected in the developing world, to fill gaps in coverage across the developed world and to ensure rural areas aren’t left behind anywhere across the globe. In addition, the hydrogen power system creates a long endurance, low environmental impact aircraft, with low noise, zero CO2 and zero NOx emissions.

As first announced on October 19 2020, SPL completed its first successful test trial during September 20201. Rollout of the first commercial service is anticipated to begin in Germany during 2024.

A feat of engineering

Cambridge Consultants has one of the world’s largest independent wireless development teams and this antenna is amongst their crowning achievements. Sitting at one eighth of the intended full size, the

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