Mobile network EE could deploy small cells tethered to weather balloons and drones to quickly supply hard-to-reach rural areas with 4G mobile broadband.
Buried in EE’s roadmap document that details, among other things, plans to bring 4G to 95 per cent of the population by 2017, the UK’s biggest network said it will investigate setting up so-called ‘air masts’ in lieu of a permanent mast or terrestrial small cells.
EE said: “We will begin exploring “Air Masts”: Essentially aerial small cells positioned in the sky above a hard-to-reach areas, using either tethered balloons or unmanned craft, bridging the UK’s transmission gap.”
It should be noted that this entry appears under a section labelled ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ so it might not be high up on EE’s agenda.
Then again, additional coverage could literally be flown in for EE-sponsored events like Glastonbury. Anyone who’s ever been to a festival will know that alongside the incredible smell of the drop downs, one thing you can be sure of is patchy mobile reception.
EE has pledged to greatly expand 4G coverage in rural areas as well as launch voice calls over WiFi and 4G. The launch of an ‘inside-out’ network, which sees WiFi in the home used to boost reception, is likely to be accelerated once BT’s merger with EE is completed.