Sanswire Follows Icarus With Blimps

from the shooting-for-partway-to-the-moon dept

Derek writes “You can’t fault these guys for lack of bravado. WiFi service provider Sanswire is planning to launch high altitude blimps to offer satellite-type data services from the stratosphere. Apparently at 70,000 ft, the spherical blimps will float above air traffic control, weather, and most winds, all the while acting as WiFi access points for a 300,000 sq. mi. area of the earth. The so-called “stratellites” will have the benefits of wider coverage than terrestrial antennae, signals not blocked by land features, yet will not suffer from the latency delay inherent in geostationary satellites which are 22,300 miles away. Where to begin… Well, not knowing much about balloons and blimps, let me criticize the telecom aspects of this scheme: One of the problems of increasing the footprint of a particular antenna is that you no longer can re-use frequencies as often. The cellular network was deliberately designed with multiple cells, so that frequencies could be re-used in non-adjacent cells. Couple this with the fact that WiFi only has three non-overlapping channels (and also has FCC limitations on transmission power) and Sanswire can offer 33 Mb of bandwidth to customers in a 300,000 sq. mi. area. Assume some improvements in WiFi, like 108 MB bandwidth per channel, and you still will not get reasonable economics from this business. I think Sanswire should focus on solving its existing customer satisfaction issues.” We mentioned this plan back in December and wondered about the business models then, also.

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Comments on “Sanswire Follows Icarus With Blimps”

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saleh says:

Bandwidth might not be a hurdle

While the business case may be questionable, the technology might actually be more practical than it first appears.

For example, they could use an array of thousands of tight-beam antennas, each with small coverage. Vivato already has phased array 802.11 APs in production. What Sanswire would need would have to be even more sophisticated, but it should be possible.

However, 300K sq miles sounds a bit iffy to me — that would be over 150 miles from the blimp to the ground station.

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