5G, as the fifth generation of mobile networks, offers faster connection speeds than previous generations as well as lower response times and greater capacity. However, this ‘network of networks’ still faces some challenges with connectivity, which could be solved with the help of hydrogen fuel.
Although 5G has the capacity to carry more information at higher rates using previously untapped high frequency radio bands called ‘millimetre waves,’ there can be difficulties when sending over large distances or when operating in remote areas.
However, this could be solved with the use of hydrogen-powered aircraft that would act as a high altitude platform (HAP), in effect a telecoms mast in the sky.
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Hydrogen-powered HAPs are being investigated by companies including Cambridge-based Stratospheric Platforms, who have been working with Deutsche Telekom and TWI to deliver uninterrupted 5G connectivity to smartphones, tablets and properties via broadband connectivity. The HAPs system can provide connectivity across areas as wide as 140km and are particularly suited to rural locations. This solution also negates the need for fibre optic cables spanning the seabed to connect island communities.
This improved coverage should benefit those working in rural locations, such as farmers, allowing them to tap into 5G Internet of Things (IoT) devices and access big data. Fishermen will also be among those to benefit from this improved aerial connectivity as the HAPs will allow coverage to extend out to sea too.
With higher data rates than those provided by satellites and without the need for a satellite ground station, plans are underway to provide ubiquitous telecommunications coverage across the UK and into Northern Europe.
In addition to these benefits, using hydrogen-powered HAPs is estimated to cost just one-third of that for terrestrial masts.
Hydrogen power systems are being used for the HAPs system under development. This has been chosen as it releases zero emissions and, when coupled with offshore turbines to generate hydrogen from seawater, can deliver a service that has an availability of over 99.9%.
Hydrogen fuel cells are a clean, environmentally-friendly form of energy that combine liquid hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy, with the only by product being water vapour.