High Altitude Platform System – A point of view from the mobile operators

The Mobile Industry has as a primary objective to provide services to citizens and positively contribute to global digital inclusion. According to The Mobile Economy 2021 report from the GSMA, 8% of the global population did not have access to mobile services. However, there are geographical, social, cultural and economic conditions in different countries and regions that bring challenges that make traditional network deployment non-economically viable in some scenarios.

Uncrewed High-Altitude Platform Systems (HAPS), which operate in the stratosphere, are the focus of increased interest in research and industry. HAPS could provide major benefits for the telecommunication industry and can complement terrestrial network operations by covering more surface area.

The GSMA together with British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, IntelSat, Orange, NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank, Telefonica and TIM has published a new version of its whitepaper “High Altitude Platform Systems – Towers in the skies”. The paper explores the economic and technical boundary conditions for terrestrial roll outs for several use cases scenarios including greenfield, whitespots, Fixed Wireless Access, Disaster Response, Private Networks and Coverage over the Sea. The paper characterises each of the use case scenarios to provide more information to HAPS providers from the point of view of Mobile Operators. The paper also highlights unique challenges and characteristics in different countries.

It should be noted that the analysis was carried out solely by Mobile Operators without detailed input on potential HAPS solutions Thus, the approach taken on the cost analysis is based on costs of terrestrial network roll-out for chosen use cases, which represents a benchmark for the HAPS vendors to consider when constructing the platforms.

This is only the beginning of the journey and much closer collaboration between the HAPS ecosystems and the Mobile Network Operators is needed in order to unleash the full potential of HAPS. There is a need to focus on both technical and economic aspects and to further define the most suitable applications for HAPS for all the different scenarios. This paper is a call to action to advance collectively to better define and understand the use cases, the business case, the KPIs, spectrum issues, regulations, flight approval and aircraft certification and any generic economic considerations.

Discover what some of our partners are saying about the HAPS initiative below.

DT - DFMG Deutsche Funkturm GmbH

“HAPS will be a part of future communication networks. Various use cases such as greenfield coverage and disaster response, as well and promising trials have proven HAPS’ potential to drive digitalization in each part of the world. The updated version of the White Paper provides more detailed analysis on the economic and technical parameters of HAPS solutions and is therefore an essential guideline for its further development.”

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn – CEO of DFMG Deutsche Funkturm GmbH and CEO of Comfort Charge GmbH


“Connecting the unconnected is in our DNA. That’s why Intelsat is committed to a seamless, multi-orbit network strategy which includes exciting technology like HAPS. This will help extend our approach to the stratosphere and allow ubiquitous connectivity with traditional MNO networks and standards. We applaud the leadership of the GSMA as well as the MNO’s and aerospace companies working to make HAPS a reality”

Greg Ewert – Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Intelsat

Orange Innovation Research

“Orange is committed to helping move the industry forward by clarifying operators requirements regarding HAPS opportunities and how those may provide an innovative and effective alternative for network connectivity beyond traditional approaches

Jean BOLOT – Senior Vice President Orange Innovation Research


One of the essential requirements for deploying 5G Evolution and 6G is greatly expanded coverage in mountainous areas, the oceans and in the sky. NTT DOCOMO views HAPS as a promising solution for helping to achieve these goals. In the updated HAPS whitepaper, DOCOMO has contributed to efforts to set KPIs and determine profitability in cases including disaster response, private networks and coverage over the sea, all of which are important to our company. In view of the versatility of HAPS to provide communications coverage from the sky, we believe that the examination of various usage cases in this whitepaper will help to facilitate the practical application of HAPS.”

Takehiro Nakamura – Senior Vice President and General Manager of 6G-IOWN Promotion Department, NTT DOCOMO, INC.

SoftBank Corp

SoftBank Corp. is promoting Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) solutions to bridge the digital divide, and our HAPS business is key to our NTN portfolio. We’re pleased to be contributors to this GSMA whitepaper, which we believe is a useful resource for customers considering HAPS. Utilizing our experience as a mobile network operator with a HAPS business, we contributed a use case analysis on how HAPS can be an economically feasible way of reducing whitespots in the rural areas of Hokkaido, Japan. We hope this use case scenario and the whitepaper will help to further promote HAPS adoption.”

Hidebumi Kitahara,- SoftBank Corp. Vice President and Head of Service Planning Technology Division; and HAPSMobile Inc. Director and Senior Vice President, Global Business Promotion Division


 “Telefónica is willing to support the Industry to explore in detail how non-terrestrial solutions can become an efficient complement to terrestrial networks in specific use cases like coverage extension to deep-rural areas, disaster relief applications, etc. Integration of multiple networks, including non-terrestrial ones, into a single operational concept is a key aspect of current networks evolution towards beyond-5G. This update of the White Paper means a new step towards that objective, identifying key challenges and opportunities as well as setting the base for further MNO engagement with the HAP industry.” 

Cayetano Carbajo Martín – Core and Transport Director at Telefónica Chief Technology & Information Office

HAPS Alliance

“The HAPS Alliance commends the GSMA for publishing this visionary research on ways HAPS technology and use cases offer the potential to achieve universal cellular coverage for all. What’s more, the paper spotlights how available HAPS use cases could be economically and effectively implemented across geographies. The GSMA whitepaper will play an important role in how the HAPS Alliance drives forward advancements to the HAPS ecosystem. I would like to thank the HAPS Alliance members for all their contributions to this paper.”

Ken Riordan – HAPS Alliance President