As we move through the 2020's will these two terms become common in the Mobile phone and broadband ecosystems or fade away as the terms WAP and Fax have since the 2000’s.
As a Digital Architect in Capgemini Invent, my role across businesses in assessing the technologies available and their use to deliver enhanced customer and client value is key. With access through Capgemini to teams who have done, are doing and cando digital
service delivery across industries and as Capgemini is the world's number one provider of research and insights on technology allows Invent colleagues to access information about their impact to our clients. It also enables me to dive into information on
technologies that may help address and unlock future capabilities in other areas of interest to me around identification of individuals, managing identification data and consumer payments. (Well worth checking out as so much research is published and available
to all https://www.capgemini.com/gb-en/research-institute/).
Recently, in supporting work for an Electric Heavy Vehicle client. Elon Musk's 'Starlink' network came to mind, due to the multiple IoT connected components within their new product and the issues around from collecting this data from vehicles in remote
locations. This got me thinking about the impact to world-wide communications and its sustainability of satellites. I then remembered about seeing a Capgemini PR release about sustainable high-altitude platforms providing 5g communications over significant
areas for long periods of time, days at a time not just a few hours. (https://www.capgemini.com/gb-en/news/cambridge-consultants-building-the-worlds-largest-commercial-airborne-antenna/).
Both technologies have now brought new technical abbreviations into my vocabulary, 'HALO' and 'LEOs'. So firstly, lets understand these terms and the secondly how them may impact digital services in who, what, where, when, why and how some services may be
accessed in the future.
'Starlink' and other satellite internet and voice communication services use Low Earth Orbit satellites (LEOs) technology to access the internet at high speed with relatively low latency. These 'LEOs' network devices can then be connected to local networks,
WIFI to enable general use devices to access the internet in areas where there is no Fibre, Copper or Microwave (direct line of sight) availably, connectivity. Therefore, mobile systems & devices connected to a LEOs network still require a base-station type
infrastructure (inc Power) to provide access in a wider area than say a WIFI hotspot. This means that the costs for a base station type infrastructure make it still not economic for an area of low usage. LEOs connected base-stations are becoming part of
mobile networks but more likely as part of their resilience and capacity planning tooling for urban areas without access to fast internet access. (https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/vodafone-works-ast-spacemobile-close-digital-divide)
'HALO' (High Altitude Long Operations) is the term for a group of emerging technologies that will enable mobile networks to create near 100% geographical coverage for mobile devices using 4G, 5G and onwards mobile connectivity. The potential for these HALO
technologies to deliver an even more global 'inclusive' mobile communications infrastructure. The key features are the ability to cover both large areas reducing 'black spots', that can be accessed using frequencies & components that are common in mobile
devices today, self-powered and probably connected to LEOs.
For HALO's the platform technology is less mature than for LEOs. That have been developed through the developments and integration of communications satellite technologies since the mid 70's. HALO technologies are being developed from the unmanned drone
technologies that become available from the early 2000's. The work to find the right HALO technology is currently on going with different aircraft / airship designs being prototyped with a focus on their sustainability through solar and hydrogen power on
a reusable craft.
Therefore, the need for the wide area coverage offered by HALO infrastructures connected to LEOs are likely to increase their value to mobile networks. This coupled with their lower deployment costs to the traditional mobile network base-stations with microwave
relays should make them commercially viable once the technology challenges are over-come. Indeed, in the UK with the planned replacement of the PSTN network a self-powered infrastructure becomes an increased priority may drive deployment of household LEOs
devices to remote locations in the short term. This could also provide the fast internet connectivity required by these isolated communities.
However, once commercial solutions become economically viable, their manufacture and deployment is likely. This is due to the need for internet connected services in remote areas and for mobile network resilience to demand spikes and unforeseen events.
Therefore, these two technologies are likely to provide these capabilities that currently constrain digital services from becoming truly ubiquitous. Which brings me back to the needs of technologies for consumer payments and citizen identity to be available
to all everywhere.
The Tonga volcano eruption breaking the physical communications cable may provide the data modelling to support the future viability of HALO platforms connected to LEOs. With the 5 weeks to restore general internet connectivity (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-60458303)
and the 5 days required for deployment of new satellite equipment using LEOs (https://www.satellitetoday.com/telecom/2022/01/21/satellite-operators-restore-critical-communications-to-tonga-after-volcanic-eruption/). Could future HALO platforms supported by
LEOs help to reduce these times further? Also, would these services be delivered at a cost level to permanently provide a level of resilience by default, as well as further connect remote communities or individuals with a mobile device only time will tell.
Looking back at terrestrial television that after over 60 years of since initial deployment of 95% coverage (https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/history-of-british-television-timeline/)
and was increased to around 98.5% in that time. With above 98.5% coverage by 2012 deployed only through regulation. (see thumbnail image of BBC coverage showing significant areas of sparsely populated areas) Since 1990s, it was satellite broadcast TV that
provided the solutions for nearly all households to access TV in UK and Ireland. Will it be LEOs that provide household access to all and HALO platforms that deliver this to mobile networks.
Therefore, the importance of LEOs and HALO to people in locations constrained by a lack of always available internet access should drive their rapid commercial development and deployment to help deliver digital services to all in society in what will and
need to be a more sustainable way. I do believe we may all start hearing about HALO equipped mobile networks connected to LEOs in the future.