Sprint aerial small cell in flight (Source: Sprint)

Sprint is taking its Magic Box to new heights. The carrier has teamed up with drone manufacturer CyPhy Works to modify its Magic Box product and deliver network capacity from the air.

Last week Sprint started testing Sprint Magic Box as an aerial small cell solution in Midlothian, Texas, which is about 30 miles outside of Texas. The hope is that the new solution can provide more coverage and capacity at large events or in emergency response situations, such as hard-to-reach locations after a natural disaster, Sprint COO Günther Ottendorfer said in a blog post.

Sprint launched its Magic Box in May to improve LTE network performance for customers in homes and offices. The device is manufactured by Airspan.

A key aspect of the Magic Box is LTE User Equipment Relay, which is used for wireless backhaul and allows the solution to create “an ultra-efficient connection” on Sprint’s macro network using the carrier’s 2.5 GHz or 1.9 GHz spectrum, Ottendorfer explained. Backhaul connections for traditional small cells usually use either fiber or a wireline internet connection, Ottendorfer said, both which need a physical cable, which is not practical for reaching 400 feet up into the air.

The Magic Box uses dedicated 2.5 GHz channels to deliver LTE data service from the sky by connecting the aerial small cell to a nearby base station on one channel and using another channel to deliver coverage to consumers.

“Dedicated spectrum reduces noise and interference, and it improves the efficiency of the overall Sprint network, enabling the surrounding macro network to deliver more data at faster speeds than it would without the Sprint Magic Box,” Ottendorfer wrote.

Ottendorfer explained the aerial solution connects wirelessly to a nearby Sprint cell site, COW (Cell on Wheels), or SatCOLT (Satellite Cell Site on Light Truck). All that’s needed is power, which is provided by a local commercial service or a generator, he said.

Qualcomm provided the chipset for the base station portion of the small cell, while GCT Semiconductor provided the chipset for wireless backhaul.