Advancing Global Connectivity: The Expanded Horizon of the HAPS Spectrum

Caption: Photo provided by ITU.

Advancing Global Connectivity: The Expanded Horizon of the HAPS Spectrum

In the dynamic realm of wireless communication systems, High-Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) are making remarkable progress. The recent decisions made at the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) have significantly expanded the spectrum bands for HAPS. Specifically, the 700-900MHz, 1.7GHz, and 2.6GHz mobile spectrum bands are now designated for HAPS use as International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) base stations, accompanied by the establishment of regulations governing their operations.

The consensus reached during the WRC-23 deliberations holds immense promise for operators worldwide, offering them greater flexibility in selecting spectrum for HAPS-based mobile broadband communication services. This newfound flexibility is instrumental in seamlessly integrating HAPS services with existing smartphones and other devices. The modification not only empowers existing mobile network operators but also provides governments globally with increased flexibility to explore and prepare for the widespread implementation of HAPS services.

The impact of this decision transcends technological advancements; it is poised to facilitate the deployment of services that leverage direct communications between HAPS base stations and users equipped with conventional smartphones. Particularly in challenging and unconnected terrains such as the sky, remote islands, mountainous regions, and developing countries where ground-based stations face obstacles, the expanded spectrum contributes to establishing stable communication networks.

This agreement marks a significant stride towards a world where connecting the unconnected becomes a reality through collaboration among countries, regions, and regulatory authorities. The spectrum bands dedicated to HAPS not only foster research and development activities but also pave the way for the commercialization of HAPS services. The HAPS Alliance Telecommunications Working Group (TWG) played a crucial role in achieving this outcome by contributing technical studies to ITU-R. They provided HAPS base station parameters and conducted co-existing studies with existing systems. Additionally, the HAPS Alliance TWG organized workshops in regional WRC preparatory groups and served as the chairperson for this agenda item in the ITU-R, as well as coordinator for regional organizations.

Caption: Shiro Fukumoto, Vice-Chair of the Telecommunications WG at WRC-23. Photo provided by ITU.

Through these activities and the successful completion of the HAPS feasibility study, the HAPS Alliance TWG contributed to generating interest in HAPS in many countries, ultimately contributing to a positive decision at the WRC-23.

As a next step, the HAPS Alliance TWG will provide support to the regulators in each country so that the results of the WRC-23 can be appropriately implemented into their national regulations. This effort will help promote the timely, efficient, and cost-effective deployment of HAPS around the world.

The HAPS Alliance TWG is also considering updating its regulatory recommendations published in 2021, as well as preparing a white paper with case studies on compliance with the regulatory conditions for the use of HAPS with additional frequencies.

In conclusion, the expansion of the HAPS spectrum underscores a commitment to global connectivity, technological innovation, and addressing communication challenges in diverse and demanding environments. As the world envisions the future of wireless communication, HAPS emerges as a pivotal force, shaping the trajectory of technology to benefit societies worldwide. We invite all interested in this evolving landscape to join the HAPS Alliance and the HAPS Alliance TWG to collaborate further. Learn more here.