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HAPS internet: What you need to know about this rural internet option

Taylor Gadsden

Feb 18, 2021 — 2 min read

Learn about a new way to connect.

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Although more people have access to the internet than ever before, the digital divide still exists and the need for broadband connectivity is more prevalent than ever. Getting connected in a big city is one thing, but populations in smaller or more rural areas don’t always have the same access to reliable providers. HAPS systems, or high-altitude platform station systems, could be the answer those regions have been seeking.

How does HAPS internet work?

ITU Radio Regulations defines high altitude platform station systems as a radio station located 20 – 50 kilometers above Earth in a fixed location. Test deployments have proven successful in delivering broadband services to remote and underserved areas.

HAPS systems aren’t a new concept (studies began as early as 1996), but recent developments in antenna technology, solar panel efficiency and autonomous avionics have made HAPS a very real solution to modern-day coverage expansion with current providers and the introduction of new services to underserved areas. HAPS are easy to deploy and operate in the stratosphere layer of Earth’s atmosphere. Their location also helps to avoid air traffic and disruptive weather conditions.

World radiocommunication conferences, WRC-97, WRC-2000 and WRC-12, have designated spectrum for HAPS in the 47/48 GHz, 2 GHz, 27/31 GHz and 6 GHz bands. WRC-19 is the newest addition with a designation of the frequency bands 31 – 31.3 GHz and 38 – 39.5 GHz. The existing 47.2 – 47.5 GHz and 47.9 – 48.2 GHz are also available for future administrations looking to implement HAPS.

The future of HAPS

The HAPS Alliance, a collection of companies in the industry, is working to quicken the adoption of HAPS technology and advocates for global HAPS spectrum harmonization. Executive members include businesses like AT&T, Nokia and Loon, while Principal members include businesses like T-Mobile, Ericsson and Raven. 

“The stratosphere represents an enormous opportunity to bring the benefits of connectivity to more people around the world. But we will only be successful in harnessing the potential of the stratosphere if we come together to advocate for and collaborate on the technologies that will make this possible,” said founding alliance member and Loon CEO, Alastair Westgarth.

“This HAPS Alliance is an important step forward in building an established industry that will help us realize the promise of the stratosphere to connect people everywhere.”

The consortium plans to take full advantage of the opportunity with plans to build a group of floating cell towers that will operate just above aircraft flight paths — planes typically fly in the troposphere, located in the lower end of the stratosphere. Along with broadband services, the fleet will assist with weather prediction, atmospheric modeling and earth observation. 

In areas affected by natural disasters, HAPS will also make the deployment of IoT devices a reality, especially to those in remote locations.

Taylor Gadsden

Written by:

Taylor Gadsden

Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Taylor is a veteran member of the Allconnect content team and has spearheaded a number of projects, including a data piece on the top fiber cities in the U.S. and a troubleshooting guide on how to connect your p… Read more

Shannon Ullman

Edited by:

Shannon Ullman

Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content

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