Nov 4, 2020

Airborne 5G masts: Cambridge Consultants’ ‘breakthrough’

5G
Cambridge Consultants
hap
spl
Paddy Smith
3 min
5g drone
Cambridge Consultants’ 5G drones are airborne, zero emissions, that can hover at 20,000 metres for a week, handling superfast data...

Cambridge Consultants has announced “a wireless antenna unlike anything seen before” in its quest to deliver 5G from the sky.

Working with Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), the company says its new antenna can deliver “affordable connectivity from a fleet of zero emissions aircraft, airborne at an altitude of 20,000 meters for more than a week”, a breakthrough that “could rewrite the economics of mobile broadband”.

120kg 5G mast in the sky

Weighing 120kg and measuring three square metres, the High-Altitude Platform (HAP) promises to be the world’s largest commercial airborne communications antenna, and is the result of a four-year project between the two companies.

A single HAP could cover an area up to 140km in diameter, meaning the UK could get full 5G coverage with just 60 of the airborne communication systems.

‘Radically cheaper’

In a statement, Cambridge Consultants said, “With radically cheaper costs, this new platform has the potential to connect the unconnected in the developing world, to fill gaps in coverage across the developed world and to ensure rural areas aren’t left behind anywhere across the globe. In addition, the hydrogen power system creates a long endurance, low environmental impact aircraft, with low noise, zero CO2 and zero NOx emissions.”

Rollout of the first commercial service is anticipated to begin in Germany during 2024.

SPL chief executive officer Richard Deakin said, “This unique antenna is at the heart of SPL’s stratospheric communications system. It was essential that we overcame significant technical challenges in the design of the antenna to enable us to deliver massive data rates in a unique environment where power was limited, where weight was critical and where cooling in the thin, stratospheric air was difficult.

“The development and testing of the antenna has met or exceeded the design criteria and working with such a talented team at Cambridge Consultants has been one of the highlights of the program to date. We look forward to continuing the journey as we progress to the production-standard antenna.”

Tim Fowler, chief sales officer at Cambridge Consultants, said, “Four years ago SPL approached Cambridge Consultants with an ambitious vision: to revolutionise the telecoms experience by beaming connectivity from the sky. Our role, to design and build this ‘mega cell tower in the stratosphere’, has seen us make breakthrough after breakthrough and we’re excited to build on these innovations with SPL, on the path to commercial deployment.”

How it works

Advanced calibration across the four tiles of the prototype deliver beams with astonishing accuracy, maintaining laser-like performance during flight motion and paving the way for the huge 32-tile commercial array to now be developed.

Each antenna produces 480 individual, steerable beams, creating patterns that can be ‘painted’ onto the ground to cover specific areas such as roads, railway lines or shipping lanes. The ability to produce hundreds of beams enables the antenna to reuse spectrum ensuring fast and even coverage across the entire covered area. 

A unique, wholly digital beamforming capability gives massive flexibility in how services are deployed, allowing in-flight reconfiguration to deliver services beyond the reach of conventional fixed terrestrial networks. This includes following mobile users, including trains and autonomous vehicles, and providing coverage exactly where required, for example ending at national borders.

Source: Cambridge Consultants

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Jun 8, 2021

Fastly's CDN Reportedly to Blame for Global Internet Outage

Technology
Fastly
servers
websites
Tilly Kenyon & Oliver James Fr...
3 min
Multiple outages have hit social media, government, and news websites across the globe

A huge outage has brought down a number of major websites around the world. Among those affected are gov.uk, Hulu, PayPal, Vimeo, and news outlets such as CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times.

It is thought a glitch at Fastly ─ a popular CDN provider ─ is causing the worldwide issue. Fastly has confirmed it’s facing an outage on its status website but fails to specify a reason for the fault ─ only that the problem isn’t limited to a single data centre and, instead, is a “global CDN disruption” that is potentially affecting the company’s global network.

“We’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services,” the firm said.

What is Fastly?

Fastly is a content delivery network (CDN) company that helps users view digital content more quickly. The company also provides security, video delivery, and so-called edge computing services. They use strategically distributed, highly performant POPs to help move data and applications closer to users and deliver up-to-date content quickly.

The firm has been proving increasingly popular among leading media websites. After going public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2019, shares rose exponentially in price, but after today’s outages, Fastly’s value has taken a sharp 5.21% fall and are currently trading at US$48.06. 

What are CDNs?

Content delivery networks (CDNs) are a web of small computers, or servers, that link together to collaborate as a single computer. CDNs improve the performance of internet-connected devices by placing these servers as close as possible to the people using those devices in different locations, creating hundreds of points of presence, otherwise known as POPs.

They help minimise delays in loading web page content by reducing the physical distance between the server and the user. This helps users around the world view the same high-quality content without slow loading times. 

Without a CDN, content origin servers must respond to every single end-user request. This results in significant traffic to the origin and subsequent load, thereby increasing the chances for origin failure if the traffic spikes are exceedingly high or if the load is persistent.

The Risk of CDNs

Over time, developers have attempted to protect users from the dangers of overreliance through the implementation of load balancing, DDoS (Denial of Service) protection, web application firewalls, and a myriad of other security features. 

Clearly, by the state of today’s major website outage, these measures aren’t enough. Evidently, CDNs present a risk factor that is widely underestimated ─ which needs to be rectified with haste. Content delivery networks have become a key part of the global infrastructure, and so it’s imperative that organisations start to figure out risk mitigation strategies to protect companies reliant on the interconnected service from further disruption and disarray. 

Over the coming days, both Technology Magazine and Data Centre Magazine will continue to provide updates on the current situation as developments are made.

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