From the high skies to under the high street, check out these innovative mobile network systems

From 60 thousand feet to under the city streets, today has seen two new technologies enter the mobile network.

small cells Kathrein Street ConnectFirst off is Kathrein, which has launched a specially designed “in the ground” antenna for use in dense city environments. We have got used to seeing small cells designed to be sited on light poles, and then on bus shelters, but today Kathrein announced an approach that took small cells further into the ground – with Kathrein Street Connect.

It has worked with Ericsson to design a customised small cell base station, plus antenna system, that can site the base station under a manhole cover, making use of existing under-the-street telecoms infrastructure. Kathrein’s antenna is then designed to be drilled into the ground nearby the manhole, connected via an underground cable. It comes with a special hard-wearing lid of its own so can withstand traffic of the non-mobile variety.

Kathrein says that the implementation is especially suited to those high density urban environments  that may require small cell deployments: the antenna is equipped with MIMO capability. It is in these environments that locations to site equipment is at a premium – hence the movement to design enclosures suitable for lamp-posts and bus shelters, as well as other street furniture. Critically, by using landline ducts and infrastructure, Kathrein hopes to overcome one of the issues of deploying small cells in dense numbers – backhaul.

Swisscom is the first operator to be testing the antenna, and will test the system in Bern, Zurich, Basel and Lausanne until the end of this year, with commercial deployment targeted for 2016. The product is also available to other operators as of now, Kathrein said.


Meanwhile, another company has been turning its thoughts higher – much higher in fact.


The Airbus Zephyr. Could hover unseen, connected to a ground cellular base station 50k away, and 60,000 feet below.

Roke Manor Research has been chosen by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, as part of its Defence Growth Partnership (DGP) Innovation Challenge, to develop a solution capable of transmitting data and video from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at altitudes of 60-70,000 feet down to cellular base stations on the ground.

Roke is designing a system designed to give the ability for unmanned craft, such as the Airbus Zephyr platform, to communicate with a base station up to 50km away. Roke says it anticipates using beam forming technology of its own design to beef up the capabilities of standard 3G hardware. The adaptive beam forming will intelligently direct  signal to a specific point on the ground – which could be commercial cellular infrastructure, or to a dedicated military base station.

One potential use could be for the aerial unit to hover high above a city, undertaking persistent surveillance in some shape or form without being noticed by the naked eye.

Roke’s Bob Dalgleish, Business Development Manager,  told TMN: “In this scenario if it is in range of civil cellular infrastructure then it can take advantage of that. If it is out of range, then standalone mobile base stations such as Roke’s Smartlink product can be used as the ground station element instead. This could easily be fitted to a Land Rover for example. This may be operating in a slightly different part of the frequency spectrum but our unit translates the signal back into commercial spectrum on board the UAV so that a standard mobile phone data card can be used.”

Although Roke has been awarded funding by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, Dalgleish said there are other non-military applications for the high-altitude technology.

“The principle of automatically beamforming on the base station which has the effect of amplifying the signal and hence extending the range has great applicability in terrestrial applications, and this may be one area where we are able to secure significant export opportunities, which is the ultimate remit of the Defence Growth Partnership who are behind this Innovation Challenge,” he added.