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View Full Version : Using Balloons For Cellular Coverage


Mike Temporale
01-31-2006, 01:00 AM
<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/01/30/D8FF53180.html' target='_blank'>http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/01/30/D8FF53180.html</a><br /><br /></div><i>"Why put up costly cell phone towers in thinly populated areas, when a few balloons would do? In North Dakota, former Gov. Ed Schafer is backing a plan to loft wireless network repeaters on balloons high above the state to fill gaps in cellular coverage. "I know it sounds crazy," said Schafer, who now heads Extend America Inc., a wireless telecommunications company. "But it works in the lab." Extend America and Chandler, Ariz.-based Space Data Corp. are developing the technology, which is believed to be the first to use disposable balloons to provide cellular coverage. A trial balloon will be launched in the next few weeks to test the idea, said Schafer, who left office in 2000 after eight years as governor. "To cover every square mile of North Dakota, it would take 1,100 cell towers," Schafer said. "We can do the whole state with three balloons."</i><br /><br />Lets see, that's 3 balloons per state, multiplied by 50; means only 150 balloons for the whole US. Seems like a good idea. Wait a second... What happens if one of the balloons go <i>pop</i>? That sure is an expensive amount of equipment to go crashing back down to earth. :? Maybe he should rethink this a little... ;)

xultar
01-31-2006, 01:03 AM
Don't worry about the pop. I'm sure there will be little parachutes on them and little pilots to safely land the buggers to the ground where comando dressed elves will come out of their bunkers to repair and relaunch.

99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...
99 luft balloons...

Rocco Augusto
01-31-2006, 01:50 AM
hopefully they realize that balloons will blow away if a big gust of wind comes by ;)

i think this technology would be awesome as emergency towers or in third world countries but it just seems a little far fetched to use as a reliable means of cellular service

Mike Temporale
01-31-2006, 02:00 AM
99 luft balloons...

What a great tune! I should have quoted that song in my post. :lol: ;)

zrdan
01-31-2006, 02:12 AM
[i]"Lets see, that's 3 balloons per state, multiplied by 50; means only 150 balloons for the whole US... ;)

For much of the U.S., this is a great solution.

These balloons are not you're daughter's birthday decorations.....these things are crazy "UFO material" tough....popping won't be a problem unless some Al Qaida pricks shoot them down with rockets or run planes into them......then we can have another Roswell repeat.

zrdan
01-31-2006, 02:22 AM
.....here's the REAL story of these balloons as copied from MSNBC:

Extend America, a North Dakota wireless telecommunications company, and Chandler, Ariz.-based Space Data Corp. are developing the balloon-borne cellular technology, believed to be the first of its kind.

A trial balloon will be launched next month in North Dakota to test the theory, said Schafer, the chief executive officer of Bismarck-based Extend America. Schafer left office in 2000 after eight years as governor.

If successful, the balloons could be drifting across the stratosphere above North Dakota this summer, providing cellular coverage around the state.

Schafer said the cost of the balloons is a fraction of the cost to build cellular towers in remote areas.

Jerry Knoblach, the CEO of Space Data, said although the balloon technology called SkySite is new to cellular, "the platform is very well proven."

His company has launched thousands of the free-floating balloons in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico to track data for oil company vehicles, wells and pipelines over the past year, he said. And Knoblach is certain the balloons will work for cellular service in North Dakota even in cold or stormy weather. He said balloons were launched even during Hurricane Katrina.

"It's just like a weather balloon at the airport," Schafer said. "There's enough hydrogen in them to rise very rapidly."

Up to 20 miles above the earth, stratospheric winds would push the latex weather balloons across the state at about 30 mph. Each balloon would deliver voice and data service to an area hundreds of miles in diameter, Schafer said.

"Nine balloons would always be in the air, with some going up, some going down, and some in the middle," Schafer said.

Once the balloons transit the state's stratosphere, the electronic gear would be jettisoned remotely and fall to the earth with a parachute.

The electronic equipment, about the size of a toaster, would be recovered through the use of a global positioning satellite device.

"We'd pay some guy a bounty, put in a new battery pack and send it off again," Knoblach said.

Schafer said a repeater could be used indefinitely "unless it lands in a lake or gets run over by a truck."

Cheaper than building cell towers
The state of North Dakota is an "interested observer" in the technology, said Jerry Fossum, the telecommunications director for the state Information Technology Department.

"It's interesting technology that, at first blush, sounds really crazy," Fossum said. "It's certainly a possible solution to some of our demographic problems of a lot of space and not a lot of people. I hope it works."

Knoblach said the hydrogen-filled balloons cost about $55 each. The balloons swell from six feet in diameter to 30 feet after they gain altitude. After the electronic equipment is released, the balloons expand with the drop in air pressure until they burst.

Winds at high altitudes are consistent, blowing west to east in the winter, and east to west in the summer, Knoblach said. The balloons would travel above the jet stream, and he said they would not be bothered by storms.

Schafer said it costs about $250,000 to build one cellular tower in North Dakota, and many remote areas don't have enough customers to pay for it.

"To cover every square mile of North Dakota, it would take 1,100 cell towers," Schafer said. "We can do the whole state with three balloons and it won't have problems with that line-of-sight stuff," he said, referring to hills that can block signals from towers.

Schafer thinks the entire idea is a "pretty cool" and affordable option for remote areas that might not otherwise have cellular coverage.

The system is not designed to compete with existing tower-based networks. Knoblach said the service would be sold wholesale to existing telecommunications companies. He and Schafer said users likely would see a minimal charge, if any.

Knoblach said the military is eyeing the system for use in Iraq. He said Space Data wants to establish similar systems across the United States by 2008. The startup company has been doing it for 15 months, and the North Dakota balloons would "the next level," he said.

"The nice thing is that we don't have to weld a bunch of steel together to build a tower," Schafer said. "We just let these babies go."

Rocco Augusto
01-31-2006, 02:23 AM
[i]"Lets see, that's 3 balloons per state, multiplied by 50; means only 150 balloons for the whole US... ;)

For much of the U.S., this is a great solution. Since the balloon is tethered and at a pretty high altitude, you don't want them where there's very much air traffic. Having them all over won't work, but there's plenty of places where they'll work well.

These balloons are not you're daughter's birthday decorations.....these things are crazy "UFO material" tough....popping won't be a problem unless some Al Qaida pricks shoot them down with rockets or run planes into them......then we can have another Roswell repeat.

and here i am about to go to safeway (local supermarket) to buy a couple ballons so we can do this in my state ;)

Kris Kumar
01-31-2006, 03:26 AM
...

Once the balloons transit the state's stratosphere, the electronic gear would be jettisoned remotely and fall to the earth with a parachute.

The electronic equipment, about the size of a toaster, would be recovered through the use of a global positioning satellite device.

"We'd pay some guy a bounty, put in a new battery pack and send it off again," Knoblach said.

Schafer said a repeater could be used indefinitely "unless it lands in a lake or gets run over by a truck."
...

Tell me, this is not true. :? :roll:

stumpy
01-31-2006, 03:28 AM
I would hate to be the tech working on those. All the tech would have to get balloon certified. 8O Why not go back to a Zepplins instead of planes and attach cell antenas. :P

Mike Temporale
01-31-2006, 03:46 AM
.....here's the REAL story of these balloons as copied from MSNBC:"

Actually, that's the EXACT SAME story, word for word. It's from the Associated Press and they usually sell the story to multiple publishers. :wink:

Oh, and zrdan, next time, you can just quote a little part of it, and then link to the original source. ;)

spokrie
01-31-2006, 05:49 AM
And who saids politicians aren't full of hot air. :D

stumpy
01-31-2006, 07:59 PM
I don't know exactly but don't we have a comercial jet pattern accross that state. I know that the planes only fly up to 6 miles above the sky but what happens when a balloon flies up. 8O What would be the cost of extending the range of our phones. Currently I think that we swap towers every 1-3 miles or shorter. What would be the toll on the battery or will the 911 work correctly since the balloon is moving(well im sure that could be calculated). Then what about the signal delay like the SAT phones.

Kris Kumar
02-01-2006, 04:21 AM
What would be the toll on the battery or will the 911 work correctly since the balloon is moving(well im sure that could be calculated).

Battery and 911 are good catch. 8)

Regarding the 911, I believe the balloons have GPS sensors, so they will be able to tell their position, but since a single balloon covers a large area, it makes the assisted-GPS functionality not feasible.