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SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, INC., the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and Panasonic Holdings Corporation (Panasonic HD) have successfully completed the world’s first 5G communication verification test in the 38 GHz band from an altitude of approximately 4 km on board a Cessna aircraft.

The verification test serves as a simulation of the eventual use of High-Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS). HAPS is an unmanned aircraft which is able to fly the stratosphere for extended periods of time, and is equipped with repeaters and other technology to provide radio coverage over a 100-200 km diameter, allowing better connectivity in areas such as the sky, sea and mountainous regions.

Moreover, the demonstration aims to showcase the practical implementation of 5G feeder links and backhaul lines specifically designed for High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS). By demonstrating these advanced technologies, the project intends to highlight how HAPS can effectively support and enhance 5G network infrastructure.

This includes establishing reliable high-speed connections between the stratosphere and ground stations, thereby expanding the reach and capabilities of 5G networks, especially in remote or underserved areas. The successful implementation of these technologies could pave the way for more robust and versatile telecommunications solutions, leveraging the unique advantages of HAPS to deliver consistent and widespread connectivity.

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During the trial, the Cessna aircraft was equipped with a newly developed communication equipment known as the “Cessna onboard station,” which is expected to be utilized in HAPS in the future. Additionally, a lens-type antenna with an automatic tracking capability was used as the HAPS ground station.

During the verification process, an aerial relay backhaul line was set up between a Cessna aircraft flying at an altitude of about 4 km and three ground stations. This was accomplished using the 5G New Radio (NR) standard with 38GHz band radio waves, marking a world-first achievement in telecom technology.

The continuous evolution of 5G and the growing anticipation for 6G has resulted in active efforts to expand coverage areas. Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) that use HAPS offer a promising opportunity for such efforts, and the results are poised to accelerate the practical application of HAPS.

SKY Perfect JSAT, NTT DOCOMO, NICT, and Panasonic HD are committed to collaborating on enhancing the 5G transmission from the stratosphere by using NTNs with HAPS.

This demonstration forms part of the Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ project, which focuses on developing wireless communication systems using HAPS.

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