Festival-goers could soon experience better connections.

Drones could be used to provide reliable mobile phone coverage at large-scale events where the existing signal is poor or overwhelmed by the number of people making calls or connecting to the internet.

A trial conducted over the summer by EE and Nokia used a drone to carry a tiny base station to rural areas around Inverness. Weighing only 2kg, the Nokia Flexi Zone Pico cell has all the power of LTE’s high-speed wireless communication in a compact package, allowing 4G services to be provided wherever a drone can reach.

The tests showed that with the help of the drone, mobile coverage can be established very quickly over ranges of several kilometres. High quality LTE voice calls between responders, video streaming and up to 150 Mbps data throughput were all achieved, with no need for a connection to an external core network.

If integration to an existing core is needed, Nokia has also tested the backhaul of a standard small cell with the EE core via satellite. The solution makes use of the recently launched ‘ultra-compact network’, a deployable system which combines a small cell with an embedded LTE core network resulting in a compact and flexible solution.

Drones, combined with innovations in base station technology, have the potential to bring 4G to even the most remote areas: “The technology creates a whole new opportunity for network operators,” said Imran Khan Durrani, an account manager for Nokia in the UK. “It allows them to provide temporary 4G coverage in underserved areas or to quickly expand capacity at large events.”

Nokia’s small cells were deployed at the Flow Festival in Helsinki in August. Flow is an annual urban music, food, and art festival held in the historic industrial complex of Suvilahti. This year’s event, featured an array of musicians, artists, and technology innovations, attracted a record 75,000 visitors over three days.

At Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium in June, football fans were able to share pictures and videos on a broadband service provided by Telefónica based on Nokia’s technology which increases capacity and connection speeds and reduces interference, improving users’ battery life.