EE launches world's first 4G 'air mast' to connect Red Bull Foxhunt Mountain Bike event in rural Wales
EE, part of BT Group, this weekend used its Helikite ‘air mast’ to broadcast a 360 degree live stream from the Red Bull Foxhunt downhill mountain biking event in Wales. This is the first time the balloon technology, designed to provide coverage on demand and in hard to reach places, has been used to provide mobile connectivity to consumers anywhere in the world.
The EE ‘air mast’ was flown 300 feet above Machynlleth, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, to boost 4G coverage and capacity for the Red Bull event. Red Bull Foxhunt sees over 200 female riders play the role of ‘hounds’, who are then chased down a challenging course by the ‘fox’ – professional Mountain Bike racer Katy Winton.
To ensure everyone was connected no matter which mobile operator they were with, EE provided both 4G and 4G WiFi from the patent-pending ‘air mast’. The crowd of over 200 downhill riders and friends used 4G and WiFi from EE to share their high-octane experiences from the weekend, including cycling Instagram star Juliet Elliott from Bikes N Stuff, who live-streamed her practice run to EE’s Facebook page.
EE, the mobile network with the largest 4G coverage in the UK, expanded its 4G reach even further with the unique Helikite – a mini mobile site attached to a helium balloon, connected back into the main network. EE also provided a charging solution to ensure all the riders were powered up all weekend.
EE CEO Marc Allera said:
“We have 4G coverage in more places than any other operator and are going to extraordinary lengths to connect communities across the UK, but when we saw the remote location of Red Bull Foxhunt we knew we had to go even further – and our ‘air mast’ technology was the perfect solution to provide coverage on demand, keeping everyone at the event connected. This is the first time anywhere in the world that a Helikite ‘air mast’ has been used to provide complete 4G connectivity to consumers, and it’s a sign of how far we’re going to keep everyone connected.”
EE is building and upgrading more than 100 sites to 4G every week as part of its network expansion. Some of these sites add new coverage while some increase signal strength, capacity and reliability in areas with existing coverage. EE recently upgraded more than 900 sites across the UK to support the latest smartphones with ‘Cat 12’ and ‘Cat 16’ capabilities, increasing download speeds and enabling customers to double their data upload speeds from the current maximum of 50Mbps to up to 100Mbps.
EE’s Helikite ‘air-mast’ deployment at Red Bull Foxhunt was supported by a world-class team of Ericsson field engineers, working in support of the EE Special Projects Division. EE’s tethered and powered mobile ‘air mast’ solutions are currently in patent-pending status.