EE uses balloon and drone-based solution to enhance rural coverage

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Telecom operator EE, a part of BT, today said it’s using balloon and drone-based mobile coverage solutions for connecting rural areas in the U.K.

London-based EE said its patent-pending balloon and drone ‘air masts’ can assist the mobile service provider to connect the most remote parts of the UK and ensure online availability in the wake of disasters such as major flooding.

EE 4G expands

EE, which has more than 550 shops across the UK, said its 4G coverage today reaches more than three quarters of the UK geography. EE plans to extend 4G to 95 percent geographic coverage by 2020.

EE is also upgrading more than 100 sites to 4G every week and will cover 92 percent UK geographic coverage in 2017 as part of its network expansion.

EE aims to enhance new coverage and signal strength, capacity and reliability in areas with existing coverage with new 4G sites. EE is also rolling out an additional 3,000 telecom sites using low frequency 800MHz spectrum in order to expand its reach in rural areas and improve indoor coverage.
EE for rural mobile coverage
EE in rural areas 

EE is utilizing mini mobile sites attached to a helium balloon to enhance 4G mobile coverage where permanent sites have been damaged or in areas where there is no 4G coverage. EE also showcased the use of drones equipped with mini sites, each including a basestation and antenna, to provide targeted coverage.

EE’s solutions demonstrate the use of small cells connected back into the EE network over satellite or using EE’s 4G spectrum to be able to make calls and access the internet from the most remote areas.

EE expects to deliver a deployed balloon solution in a rural environment in 2017.

“Innovation is essential for us to go further than we’ve ever gone, and deliver a network that’s more reliable than ever before. Rural parts of the UK provide more challenges to mobile coverage than anywhere else,” said EE CEO Marc Allera.

EE tech partners

Nokia has provided Flexi Zone small cell basestation solutions; Parallel Wireless has supplied self-configuring and self-optimising basestation, in-band backhaul capability, and network meshing techniques.

Avanti has enabled a satellite backhaul connection; VoltServer has provided touch-safe and flexible Digital Electricity power over data cable/tether; uVue has evolved drone designs to meet the specific requirements of providing mobile coverage

Allsopp Helikites has provided the Helikite solution that makes a stable, high altitude service possible.

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