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High-Altitude Balloon Provides Broadband to First Responders

Within 72 hours of an emergency or natural disaster, this new platform can be used to provide broadband coverage and communications services to first responders.

by News Staff / July 15, 2013

Communication among first responders post-disaster is essential, but when a city or town is hit by an earthquake or hurricane, for example, it's likely that broadband coverage will also take a hit. 

In the same vein as Google's Project Loon, which aims to solve the digital divide using balloon-powered Internet access, mobile 4G LTE provider Oceus Networks has demonstrated that such a technology can be used to provide broadband coverage and communications services to first responders within 72 hours of an emergency or natural disaster.

Recently near Boulder, Colo., the company launched an airborne 4G LTE cellular network into the air that allowed engineers to "collect data and characterize the performance of a high-altitude 4G LTE public safety system," according to a press release.

And the trial was considered a success -- it traveled nearly 200 miles, reached an altitude of 75,000 feet, transmitted an LTE network signal that provided a 100 km radius of coverage, and it supports the FCC Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture initiative, which is exploring the role of High Altitude Platforms in the national public safety network.

To facilitate the test, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration allowed temporary authorization for Oceus Networks and project partner Space Data to use the public safety broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band (Band 14) -- the same frequencies that will be used in the forthcoming nationwide public safety broadband network.

On the ground, the team used Band 14 devices – data modems (the VML 700) and smartphones (the LEX 700) – provided by Motorola Solutions, to connect to the mobile airborne LTE network.

Oceus Networks is compiling the test results, and will formally file a report with the FCC in its Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture docket.

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