Wireless ‘SuperTowers’ connect rural areas with mobile broadband

In Daily News Briefs by Wireless Estimator

Altaeros has demonstrated a new “SuperTower” to help operators deploy LTE in hard-to-reach rural communities using tethered aerostats, the industrial versions of blimps.

Altaeros partnered with Ericsson to successfully deploy a multi-sector LTE base station on a SuperTower in late 2017 in rural Maine, providing broadband speeds with streaming video.

Rural markets like Maine are ideal for operators to deploy SuperTowers which float at heights six to eight times higher than most cell towers, offer greater flexibility for site placement, cost up to 70 percent less to roll out, provide coverage equivalent to a network of 30 conventional cell towers and have less impact on the environment.

Ben Glass, CEO and CTO of Altaeros says, “People living in rural areas often have limited or no access to high-speed broadband. With Ericsson’s innovative radio technology installed on the SuperTower, we aim to change that and help provide these consumers access to the benefits of affordable broadband, such as health care, education, and economic growth.”

Altaeros developed the SuperTower to offer operators a new infrastructure option that provides the broad coverage advantages of satellites and aerial platforms, while seamlessly integrating with existing handsets by using the same radios, antennas and permitting processes as standard towers.

The offering utilizes Altaeros’ proprietary tethered aerostat design and automation technology as a platform for Ericsson’s 5G-ready high-performance radio system with MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) capable radios.

Amy McCune, Head of Customer Unit Regional Carriers for Ericsson North America says, “The SuperTowers are an innovative way to allow operators to offer high-speed broadband to underserved rural areas via next-generation LTE technology. The platform also establishes the groundwork for them to evolve their rural networks to 5G in the future.”

SuperTowers can also be deployed for temporary disaster relief or special events. They will be available to operators in late 2018.

Altaeros received $7.5 million in new funding from SoftBank Group last year. The capital will speed up the launch of SuperTower.

This is the second time SoftBank has funded Altaeros. Its first investment of $7 million in 2014 was used for the development of Altaeros’ airborne wind turbines to provide renewable energy.

Altaeros was founded in 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop the world’s first autonomous aerostat platform for the telecom and renewable energy sectors.