Facebook wants “stratobus” global connectivity

Facebook says it is pioneering new technologies by working with aerospace company Airbus to “bring affordable connectivity to more people, faster. This includes our work on the Aquila program, a high-altitude platform station (HAPS) broadband connectivity system.”

Facebook explains that the technology will eventually augment terrestrial and satellite networks from approximately 20 km above ground, with minimal infrastructure and maintenance. “We believe that HAPS connectivity is an important enabler of the next generation of broadband infrastructure, making it possible to bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking or non-existent.”

“To further these efforts, today we announced that we’re collaborating with Airbus to advance spectrum and aviation policy and continue to demonstrate the viability of HAPS systems for providing broadband connectivity.”

“To be viable, HAPS requires broadband radio spectrum. Radio spectrum is the band of frequencies where radio electomagnetic waves propagate. We have been working with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and governments around the world to make more spectrum available for HAPS, and we are encouraging the ITU to facilitate the necessary spectrum identifications that will support broadband HAPS systems when they meet in November 2019 at the World Radiocommunication Conference. Similarly, we are also encouraging the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and civil aviation authorities around the world to continue their work supporting the integration of HAPS into the worldwide aviation infrastructure,” says Facebook.

The ITU defines HAPS as being “a station on an object at an altitude of 20 to 50 km and at a specified, nominal, fixed point relative to the Earth”. The ITU says the ‘station’ can be an unmanned aircraft, balloon or airship.  The ITU says that the 17-22 kms height is chosen “because in most regions of the world this represents a layer of relatively mild wind and turbulence above the jet stream”.

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