Wireless carriers have all kinds of cool tools that they can access when they need to make a quick adjustment to improve 4G or 5G service under certain conditions. Such a device is called a COW, and no, you can’t milk it and you can’t make a roast beef sandwich out of it. COW stands for Cellular On Wheels. When a carrier needs a short-term boost to improve its signal in a certain area, it calls for a COW to drive into the area.
AT&T is turning to drones to adjust its 5G coverage in certain areas when needed
The trucks, which can be rented for $4,000 per month, come with all the gear needed to expand coverage during a major sporting event (such as the Super Bowl or a winner-take-all World Series 7 game), or a large conference. While a COW is technically a short-term solution to a temporary problem affecting cellular service, some carriers are forced to use a COW as a long-term solution when budgets get tight.
A Flying COW drone offers enhanced 4G and 5G coverage to AT&T subscribers
AT&Tsays the drones can cover 10 square miles with a strong 5G signal. Ethan Hunt, lead program manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), AT&T, said: “We had an intermittent, weak LTE signal at the flight site before launching the 5G Flying COW. We flew the drone to about 300 feet, turned on the signal and it started broadcasting strong 5G coverage to about 10 square miles.”
The carrier says the plan is to use the drones to help first responders, mountain rescue services and others get a strong connection to 4G or 5G to assist with a rescue. But drones have limitations, especially when it comes to how long they can stay in the air. Currently, AT&T can get two hours of flight time from its drones, compared to 30 minutes for consumer-facing models.
AT&T hopes to improve the flight time of its Flying COWs
Another area where a 5G Flying COW can come in handy is in rough conditions, where the terrain makes it impossible for a truck to drive into the area to improve 5G coverage. So the next time you see something flying in the sky and not sure what it is, you could say, “Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s an airplane. It’s a flying COW.” And one day you might enjoy extremely fast 5G service outdoors, all thanks to an AT&T mobile hotspot powered by a Flying COW.