The stratellite revisited

NO, I didn’t mean to type satellite. Stratellite. This is an idea that I’ve written on before and I think it has some interesting possibilities. The idea is to positition a large airship (helium balloon of sorts) in the stratosphere. Put it above the steering currents of the jet stream and equip it with the ability to stay in a fixed place for months at a time. Also, put antennas on it. For what? Whatever you need…. cell phone coverage… a wireless internet transceiver of some sort? etc.

Now, some of the quotes from the above article are skeptical that this will “get off the ground” in any meaningful way. However, I think there are some real possibilities. They say the wireless market is already fairly saturated, but I do question some of the thinking there.

In recent months there have been articles about the growing “broadband gap” between the US and Europe. Most of those articles have pointed out that a greater percentage of Europeans have access to high speed internet than do US citizens. I think it comes down to one issue… population density. Let’s face it, the population density of Europe makes it quite a bit more cost effective for a company to get high speed access to people (because there are MORE people in a smaller area.) There are wide parts of the midwest that you have scattered small towns and farms that are miles and miles from the nearest city. Many places like that don’t have highspeed access (outside of satellite) because it’s simply not very cost effective to run a fiber optic line miles out into rural areas so that 10 households can get high speed internet.

I am thinking that WiMax is one of those technologies that can change this, making it more cost effective to cover a large rural area with a cheap internet access alternative. I think the concept of the stratellite is another tool that can be used towards the same end. Cell phone coverage by and large is good in relatively urbanized areas in this country. (Although in some places it’s spotty because of geography.) Let me give an example, I’m in the mountains and we have line of site (or near line of site) to 2 cellphone towers within 1 mile from the house. However, what if we were back in a cove “on the wrong side of the ridge”. Traditionally the cellphone companies try to position towers in areas where they can “see into” many of the coves and valleys. Stratellites would mean that it would be much easier to cover mountainous areas with full EVEN coverage instead of areas where you get a good solid signal and then move 10 feet and it’s gone.

Hopefully this project will “take off” because it could mean great things not only for the US but for the developing parts of the world as well. It would seem to be a relatively quick way to get a communication infrastructure deployed. (Not to mention the possible use in disaster areas to supplement communications systems.) I’m certainly eager to hear what comes of this and I’ll try to put updates here as I find out about them.

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