EE’s inflatable masts are powered by ‘pre-5G’ backhaul

We’ve already reported on EE’s plans to use inflatable masts for providing mobile coverage during events, blackouts, and emergencies, but now we have more details about what technology powers it.

EE’s helium balloon, the Helikite, packs miniature antennas which link to a ‘network in a box’ on the ground via 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum. Similar frequencies will be part of 5G when the standard is finalised next year, but EE is claiming the use of pre-5G technology is a first in Europe.

This setup allows for a high capacity and low latency mobile network which is suited for the scenarios in which EE intends to deploy its portable mast and will enable applications like push-to-talk and provide real world speeds of 65Mbps.

“Looking ahead, I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect. We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand’,” says EE CEO Marc Allera. “What if an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb?”

EE is tasked with providing the UK’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) by 2019 which must be reliable and fit for purpose. Some areas, particularly where hills and mountains are involved, are notoriously difficult to provide coverage and could hamper relief efforts in a disaster or emergency.

“Rural parts of the UK provide more challenges to mobile coverage than anywhere else, so we have to work harder there – developing these technologies will ultimately help our customers, even in the most hard to reach areas,” explains Allera.

Helikite, powered by 5G technology, could someday save lives in addition to helping people stay connected while enjoying the UK’s many festivals.

Are you impressed with EE’s inflatable masts? Let us know in the comments.

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