China Mobile might be planning a fleet of drone base stations, but in the aerial dogfight for supremacy they're no match for rival KT's helium airship.
The Chinese operator last month called a tender for 30 drone base stations for emergency communications -- one of the world's largest telecom drone fleets.
But it's been one-upped by South Korea's KT, which has built the first of a series of autonomous helium airships that literally spit out drones.
China Mobile's 74 million yuan ($10.9 million) tender calls for tethered drones that can rise to 100 meters in five minutes and provide 24 hours' service.
Each can cover an area of up to 50 square kilometers and support 5,400 mobile users.
China Mobile Communications Corp. carried out trials last year and also deployed drones to support the relief effort after a major earthquake in Jiuzhaigou, southwest China, last August.
A worthy project, but they look old school compared with KT's 10-meter long Skyship.
It can track people to within 50 meters and then deploy its own drone fleet to deliver emergency kits and supplies before rescue personnel arrive.
It can also serve as a base station by hovering over an accident scene.
A KT Corp spokesperson said KT already had a drone base station and a backpack base station.
"Compared to drones, the Skyship aircraft can fly longer and more stably," she added.
The company is in discussions with local governments and police concerning how to use Skyship.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading