A team of European space enthusiasts, comprised of the ZINOO science centre and mobile operator LMT (Latvian Mobile Telephone), have performed a test that allowed them to successfully record 4G terrestrial internet 85,000 feet in the sky, the currently highest-known altitude for a functioning mobile internet connection.
The test was conducted by flying a mobile phone into the stratosphere to test how high a mobile connection and mobile internet can reach. The experiment was conducted during the summer of 2019 in a collaboration between space enthusiasts - the ZINOO science centre team, along with the leading Latvian mobile operator - Latvian Mobile Telephone - who provided the necessary infrastructure for implementing the experiment, including equipping a communication base station with upward-oriented mobile communications antennas.
The team was able to confirm network coverage at a record altitude of 85,000 feet, in the air. The flying phone was even able to send its location to Google's Find My Phone service, using 4G data.
Mr. Pauls Irbins, head of the ZINOO test team, claims that this is a world record for “highest altitude of tested terrestrial 4G internet”.
With this test, Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) aims to adapt existing ground communications infrastructure for non-terrestrial applications in the very near future.
LMT and ZINOO are currently conducting a study in order to determine the feasibility of launching an experimental 4G-enabled LEO (Low Earth orbit) satellite into orbit. The satellite would use existing, terrestrial, 4G infrastructure, which would be provided through upward-pointing antennas.
Until now, retrieving data that is collected from satellites has been complicated and cost-inducing. The ability to provide nano and cube satellite projects with data delivered via an internet connection would ensure an easier, more cost-effective access to information, which in turn would further empower small-scale satellite projects.