Communications drones could be flying over England's green and pleasant land in years to come if mobile operator EE has its way.
EE said that it plans to use what it calls "air masts" in its "Signalling The Future" manifesto, which lays out the UK mobile operator's $2.3 billion plans to extend its 4G LTE coverage to 99% of the UK population by 2017. (See Eurobites: EE Invests in Rural 4G Rollout.)
The operator could use tethered ballons or drones to add rural coverage at lower costs than deploying cell towers. The operator describes the air masts as "essentially aerial small cells positioned in the sky above a hard-to-reach areas."
EE is one of the first service providers to go public with future coverage plans centered around unmanned vehicles. Such blue-sky thinking has so far been the domain of tech giants like Facebook and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). (See Forget the Internet, Brace for Skynet and Facebook, Google in New Drone Race.)
However, Australian operator Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) is helping Google with its "Project Loon," which aims to deliver Internet from the sky via balloons. (See Bell Labs Chief Slams 'Toy' Networks and The New Internet Space Race: Google's Final Frontier?.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading