Research from Liverpool Hope University’s School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering has led to membership of a prestigious Alliance committed to providing internet connectivity across the globe.
The so-called ‘HAPS Alliance’ was formed in February last year and counts giants of the communications and aerospace industries among its members, including the likes of Airbus, Nokia, T Mobile and Ericsson.
The group is focused on the use of revolutionary High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS), or ‘pseudo satellites’, to supply internet to rural communities where there’s no terrestrial infrastructure.
The vehicles themselves fly high in the Earth’s stratosphere, beaming wireless broadband coverage via 4G from mainstream networks to the ground below, covering a radius of around 100km.
Hope’s HAPS research team led by Prof Nagar (PVC Research) has been working on various aspects of the technology, such as modelling and simulating multi-HAPS coordination, solar-HAPS energy management algorithms, HAPS autonomy capabilities, HAPS regulatory and policy issues and other application-based challenges.
The mission of Hope’s HAPS research is informed by the pressing need to address the lingering digital divide exacerbated by rural connectivity challenges.
And now Hope has been officially announced as a member of the HAPS Alliance - one of only two UK universities to have done so.
Dr Anicho, Lecturer in Computer Science and a member of Hope’s HAPS research team, says: “HAPS technology is still a long way from being common knowledge and we need to spread the word about what these stations can accomplish so that we can increase adoption.
“With the HAPS Alliance we can come together to not just get the message out there, but to collectively and cooperatively work to overcome technological or policy-related barriers, so that we can end the digital divide.”
This ‘digital divide’ remains a serious issue.
According to UNESCO, around 45 per cent of the world’s population still has no access to the internet.
The global pandemic has also brought the problem into sharp focus, with billions unable to access school coursework, or to work from home.
The HAPS Alliance outlines its vision on its website, saying: “To eliminate the digital divide and bring connectivity to more people, places and things worldwide, companies from telecommunications, technology, aviation and aerospace industries unite in the education, regulation and promotion of high altitude platform stations (HAPS) in the stratosphere.
“Participating companies can collectively advocate the advantages of HAPS with relevant authorities in various countries, build a cooperative HAPS ecosystem, develop common product specifications and promote the standardization of HAPS network interoperability.”
Other listed members include Loon, HAPSMobile, AeroVironment, Bharti Airtel Limited, China Telecom Corporation, Deutsche Telekom, Intelsat, SoftBank Corp, and Telefónica.