Wireless Balloons For Real This Time Or Still Just Hot Air?

from the tinfoil-balloon dept

Like its cousin broadband over powerlines, the idea of using balloons of some type to blanket areas with wireless coverage has gotten plenty of hype over the years, but has really done very little to actually back it up. The idea changes a little bit from time to time -- like from tethered balloons to giant broadband blimps, but the lack of deployments stays the same. The story's popped up again, this time in North Dakota, where companies plan to keep reusable balloons in the air over the state to cover it entirely with cellular phone service. They make the usual claims that it will be much more effective than building standard cell towers, that they can launch in any kind of weather, and that the technology will actually work -- but, again, like all the previous stories, don't really do much to prove it. Mobile operators would love nothing more than to cut the billions of dollars they spend every year on network infrastructure, so if this idea is so great, and has been around for so long, why isn't anybody using it?


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  1.  
    identicon
    dorpus, Jan 30th, 2006 @ 4:53pm

    State Slogan for North Dakota

    Closer than South Dakota.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Scott, Jan 30th, 2006 @ 7:34pm

    Re: State Slogan for North Dakota

    They are using it. Unfortunately, I cant say where other than its in the Middle East.

    Keep in mind, if you dont see it commercially, doesnt mean it isnt practiced in some other part of the universe.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2006 @ 8:29pm

    Re: State Slogan for North Dakota

    Still doesn't answer the implied question of "what's the downside?"

     

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  4.  
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    Ivan Sick, Jan 30th, 2006 @ 10:38pm

    Re: State Slogan for North Dakota

    Hard to know what the down side might be without seeing an actual deployment. The obvious answer would be weather interference with signal and the physical condition of the balloon. Tho' they say it can be :launched in all types of weather"--I assume they'd say the balloons will survive in "all types of weather" too.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    ?, Jan 30th, 2006 @ 10:54pm

    :(

    Sorry honey, the wind is out of the north today, which means that the cell phone baloon is just out of range of our phones. You are just going to have to hop in the car if you want to talk to your daughter...

     

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  6.  
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    Mark, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 12:08am

    No Subject Given

    Gee...I wonder if, lacking Cellular coverage, such places still have the old duplex fm radiophone system still in place. Or a housewife monitoring her CB radio to make phone calls for those in trouble on the road. I think the lack of deployments indicates the lack of actual profit potential in those areas. Maybe Original Wireless still has a use afterall.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Mark, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 12:11am

    Re: State Slogan for North Dakota

    I don't know about ND's motto, but one from one or more states downwind might be "We got all of North Dakota's Cell System right here"...at least, the ones that didn't take direct lightning hits.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 12:16am

    seems to be working

    Well this technology works and is presently being used in texas, new mexico, oklahama for monitoring oil wells using paging techniques. It has been tested out with wireless and seems to be doing good in tests.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Guess, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 12:30am

    Re: State Slogan for North Dakota

    Every 12 hrs or so you have to keep launching balloons in air to maintain coverage. Someone has to pick it up and change batteries for reuse.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    cad, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 12:41am

    cellular balloons

    Cellular Mobile Phones rely on frequency reuse to achieve capacity, hence the name 'cellular'. TDMA based systems e.g. GSM have timing constraints which limit cell radius to ~30km. Balloons may help in wide open areas with very few subscribers but not much use in built up areas with high density of subscribers.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Mike Brown, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 8:13am

    What's the downside?

    As a pilot, I find the proliferation of towers in recent years to be more than a little hazardous, but at least current cell towers are short enough (to create the small cells) so that they're not a really big deal if you stay more than the minimum 500' up (1,000 feet in congested areas).

    I'm not wild about the idea that any cell company can easily put up a balloon at any height which won't appear on any aero chart.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Fortino, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 8:35am

    Re: What's the downside?

    Mike, the balloons I heard about are built to run way above commercial air traffic. Appox 60k feet or so from what I recall. They would be built for severe conditions and similar to the old weather balloons but would include GPS to keep them on point.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    CUrob, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:42am

    No Subject Given

    Sounds like a great concept. Especially the unmanned hovering units they are talking about for Columbia.

    But alas, I am still waiting for those huge flying aircraft carriers from Sky Captain.

    I won't hold my breath for either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Chris, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 11:07am

    May be a silly observarion

    I may be a bit silly here but not withstanding tying a key to a string and hoping for lightning, how will they get power up there for the repeaters? Batteries too heavy and any type of fuel engine generator combo might exceed the weight limits as well. A tethered balloon I can understand.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    haggie, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 11:39am

    No Subject Given

    Downside #1: 10-year-old with BB gun

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 11:41am

    Poor cell service in the Dakotas

    The reason cell service is so poor in the Dakotas is because both North and South Dakota SUCK!

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Charlie, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 1:07pm

    North Dakota has ok coverage

    Cell phones are already used widely in the barren state. When I was there in May my CDMA phone worked fine in the middle of nowhere. Now GSM coverage was limited to what they call the city, but was really just a small town masquerading as a city do to an airforce base and a tiny airport.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Charlie, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 1:09pm

    Re: North Dakota has ok coverage

    One last note, the 1xRTT coverage worked and I used it as my primary Internet access for a week.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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