The “SuperTower,” which uses a tethered aerostat (industrial blimp), has been developed to transmit wireless signals across rural areas, roughly the same coverage area of 30 conventional cell towers. Boston-based startup Altaeros recently demonstrated in Fremont, New Hampshire, using an Ericsson Radio System to offer high-speed LTE with streaming video.
Altaeros partnered with Ericsson first deploy a multi-sector LTE base station on a SuperTower in late 2017 in rural Maine. The aerostat uses helium gas to float at an altitude of 850 feet.
The SuperTower costs up to 70 percent less to roll out that the terrestrial coverage equivalent, according to Ben Glass, CEO and CTO of Altaeros. It is designed to combine the broad coverage advantages of satellites and aerial platforms with seamless integration with existing handsets of terrestrial cell towers.
Altaeros, founded in 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has received funding from SoftBank Group Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the National Science Foundation, among others. The company has also developed an airborne wind turbine to capture clean energy.
SuperTowers, which can also be deployed for disaster relief or special events on a temporary basis, will be available to operators in late 2018.