SoftBank and the Government of Rwanda have made milestones with their successful test of SoftBank’s 5G communications payload in the stratosphere.
The groundbreaking demonstration, conducted in Rwandan airspace, marks the first-ever public delivery of 5G connectivity from a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the stratosphere.
The test, carried out for HAPS research purposes, follows a previous stratospheric flight test in June 2023.
During the recent demonstration, SoftBank’s stratosphere-ready communications payload provided uninterrupted 5G connectivity for approximately 73 minutes at an altitude of 16.9km.
The payload performed flawlessly in demanding atmospheric conditions. One of the highlights of the test was a 5G-based Zoom video call between a smartphone in Rwanda and SoftBank team members in Japan.
The radio waves transmitted and received from the 5G communications payload operated on the same frequencies as existing smartphones and devices, allowing for seamless communication.
This achievement is a significant milestone resulting from a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2020 between SoftBank’s subsidiary HAPSMobile Inc. and the Ministry of ICT and Innovation of Rwanda.
The agreement aimed to explore the use of HAPS to provide mobile internet connectivity in Rwanda and other regions. Furthermore, SoftBank and the Government of Rwanda’s Ministry of Education signed a Partnership Agreement in June 2023 to bring educational technology (EdTech) services to Rwanda using Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) solutions.
With the success of the stratospheric 5G connectivity test, SoftBank and the Government of Rwanda plan to study potential HAPS use cases and commercial implementation in Rwanda and other parts of Africa.
One of the key considerations is the digitalization of schools and communities in rural areas lacking internet connectivity. Junichi Miyakawa, President & CEO of SoftBank Corp., expressed his excitement about the 5G payload’s performance, stating that it exceeded expectations. He emphasized the importance of bridging the digital divide and expressed gratitude to the Government of Rwanda for their support.
Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation of the Republic of Rwanda, hailed the successful test as a promising step towards narrowing the digital divide and enhancing digital inclusion.
She emphasized Rwanda’s commitment to becoming a global destination for innovative solutions and thanked SoftBank for their partnership.
The news of SoftBank and the Government of Rwanda’s successful test has generated significant interest, as it offers the potential to revolutionize connectivity in remote areas and bridge the digital divide in Africa and beyond.