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The Internet The Almighty Buck

Broadband Barrage Balloons 287

Posted by Hemos
from the moon-over-my-hammy dept.
alnya writes "BBC Online are reporting a story of a York-based company called SkyLinc who are floating baloons connected to a fibre optic pole which, they say, can deliver broadband access at "more than double the speed of most broadband services currently available" - whatever that means. Only 18 balloons would be necessarily to blow BT out the water (according to the article). Is this on the horizon?"
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Broadband Barrage Balloons

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  • whats stopping it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:02PM (#6040586)
    from the article:
    The technology behind the idea has been around for years, with the US Government operating several such aerostats as communication systems on its borders and the US military employing similar technology for about 50 years.

    so, it seems to be pretty workable, and according to the article its not to expensive. so whats the reason this isn't already wildly addapted? i didn't see any problems mentioned in the article
  • Re:Not worth it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:04PM (#6040600)
    see, the idea is that you could share the price in your whole village, which means that your connection would be cheap and fast, especially if you live far of any citys, and thus might not be able to get broadband (cheaply)

    just because you dont need it doesn't mean nobody does
  • Security (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scrotch (605605) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:18PM (#6040657)
    I doubt the military will be using them - it's an awfully easy target. Not open to a pellet gun attack, obviously, but perhaps to air-to-ground missile attack.

    I assume that eavesdropping would have to be done at their altitude? Or could you listen in on unencrypted communication from wherever you could stick an antenna?

    Perhaps the existing ground level wiring will make a nice backup for customers that want this sort of security.
  • by JohnRlI (199149) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:19PM (#6040665) Homepage

    While most Americans consider blimps only suitable for promotional purposes and overhead golf shots, the merry olde English are trying to find some use for the obsolete gasbags.

    Yes, we all know what a crime it is to be innovative and thoughtful in America, unless you have the funding of a large company behind you and you#ve been garanteed by market research that your project will have a large return.

    It's really no surprise, the country loves it's eccentrics, from Sinclair's little electric scooter to the Osborne luggable to the Robin Reliant to their steam powered subway trains.

    I'd love to see one of these steam powered subway trains you speak of, by my recollection they were put out of service quite some time ago. Of course when it opened on the 10th of January in 1863 steam was the norm, but that was phased out by 1961. You see, our underground train system is half the age of your whole damn country, and has inspired systems like it the world over and still it carrys more people than any other.

    Their standard of living would improve if they ever upgrade their technology to at least 1970's level, but then their little country wouldn't have the Disneyesque appeal.

    Have you ever actually been to the UK for more than tourism? The school I went to is older than the united states, by almost twice as much. Our country has great herritage and we like to preserve that herritage, and we do so while modernising our services. The touristy areas make these modernisations less apparent because they're less attractive to tourists. I suggest you come live here for a few years and make your mind up on the "Disneyesqe Appeal".

    I think you'll find the US has far more luddite encampments dotted around the place, who embrace guns and spurn any sort of government or technology that there are over here, maybe they should be dealt with?

  • Re:RTFA! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Detritus (11846) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:20PM (#6040668) Homepage
    A 150 grain bullet from a 30-06 rifle can reach 9330 feet (2844 meters) when fired straight up. Julian Hatcher, who became the Chief of Ordinance for the U.S. Army in World War II, investigated this and many other ballistics questions.
  • Re:RTFA! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enonu (129798) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:23PM (#6040691)
    Are you taking into account that'd you be firing these rifles straight up rather than simply over land at sea level?
  • by sleeper0 (319432) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:24PM (#6040695)
    I am thinking the problem of wind moving these things around is grossly understated by the article. Minimum distance for one of these things would be 1.5km but if they say they only need 18 total that means they must expect distances of 20-30km+ which is quite a distance. Customer sites would need tight beam directional antennas to go that far that would lose signal as soon as the balloon moved much at all. They say in the article that they will have an "antenna stabilisation system" that keeps the balloon in place even if its getting blow around, but could it really keep it in place within a few feet considering it's on a 1.5km tether? Honestly that seems like the sticky point to me, unless i am way off in how much tolerance for movement the customer antennas would have.
  • by fruey (563914) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:26PM (#6040706) Homepage Journal
    There's what I might call a "comfort zone" beyond which any faster is indeed irrelevant. An old survey set it at something like 256kbps, it's maybe still that for most web surfing.

    Tolerances will vary depending on content - but unless you're a hardcore MPEG/DivX downloader then higher than 512 is not particularly different *today* until multimedia content producers force higher bandwidth, and this is not worth it for most, until enough people have very high speed access and the infrastructure to handle it also.

  • Re:Olde Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by odyrithm (461343) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:45PM (#6040772)
    obviously didnt read the article did we?

    Problems such as bad weather conditions can be countered by an antenna stabilisation system which would make sure the antenna stays in place regardless of wind, rain or other conditions.
  • Re:NOT a good idea (Score:1, Interesting)

    by odyrithm (461343) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:49PM (#6040790)
    wtf are you morons all talking about? your not gonna be able to shoot a ballon at 1.5km in the air, trust me you wont. Take into account things like:

    1) wind(the bullet will fly off course quickly)
    2) gravity(yeap you guessed it it will also bring it off course and down)
    3) the amount of attempts you would beed to try would have the armed police all over your sorry arse.
    4) now shutup, and think, your not funny.
  • by 200_success (623160) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:50PM (#6040794)

    There's really nothing new here except the idea of using balloons. Wireless Internet has been available for a while now. The biggest flops so far have been Metricom (the original incarnation of the Ricochet Internet service) and Sprint Broadband Direct.

    I had Metricom/Ricochet while I was in college. The Metricom radios, about the size of shoeboxes (1/1000 of a VW Beetle), were mounted on utility poles every kilometer or so. It was a great technology that was mostly killed by incompetent management, high deployment cost, and irrelevance as the rest of the world went from dial-up to DSL/cable. The bandwidth was pretty good for its day, but its latency sucked (typically 400ms minimum).

    My dad got Sprint Broadband Direct after ditching DSL. Our DSL was unreliable since our house was too far from Pac Bell's switch box. Also, there is no cable modem service available in our area. So we turned to Sprint, which serves the San Francisco Bay Area through a tower in the Fremont Hills, about 50 km away. A Sprint technician came and installed a small dish antenna on our roof, and permanently aimed it at the tower.

    We have been dissatisfied with Sprint Broadband Direct because:

    • The latency sucks (400ms average)
    • Lots of dropped packets, which I believe are due to the wireless link (10% typical, and worse when foggy)
    The combination of those two factors make SSH use unbearable. We were stuck with it because Sprint requires a 1-year committment to offset the cost of installation.

    The Sprint service isn't for everyone, since it requires a clear line of sight to the tower on the hill, and the right to mount an antenna on the roof. Combined with the high cost of deployment, these drawbacks have forced Sprint to deprecate the service [sprintbroadband.com].

    The SkyLinc system seems to be most like Sprint's. The elevation of the balloons will be an advantage (probably negated by the fact that the antennas are not exactly stationary), but they'll have to overcome the same difficulties that have plagued previous systems.

  • by Rxke (644923) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:53PM (#6040807) Homepage
    they oughta float some above Iraq, Baghdad as a stopgap measure until communications infrastructure is mended. come to think of it, would come in very handy in desaster stricken places, like Algeria, where earthquakes destroyed a lot of the infrastructure.
  • Re:RTFA! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flippet (582344) on Monday May 26, 2003 @01:18PM (#6040904) Homepage

    The Accuracy International AW50, which uses massive .50 cal has a max effective range of 2000m!

    Does effective range account for shooting straight up, or just horizontally?

    Surely there must be a British-made SAM that could eliminate all these uncertainties... :-)

    Phil (fellow York-dweller)

  • Re:Stormy Weather... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSync (5291) on Monday May 26, 2003 @01:36PM (#6040996) Journal
    From here [af.mil]...

    Airborne time is generally limited only by the weather (60% standard operational availability) and routine maintenance downtime, which is minimal. Since the aerostats are stable in all winds below 65 knots, the aerostat program provides low-cost, one of a kind radar coverage uniquely suited for its given mission.
  • Re:RTFA! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tkjtkj (577219) <tkjtkj@gmail.com> on Monday May 26, 2003 @03:29PM (#6041522)
    There is a difference between a rifle's "maximum effective range" and its maximum altitude when fired straight up. Eg, when fired parallel to the earth's surface, the only force slowing the projectile is the force of wind resistance, which will continue to operate for as long as the projectile is aloft, ie, the time it'd take a body to fall to earth if dropped by hand directly from the same altitude as the rifle's muzzle. 'Effective range' means that the projectile must still be able to cause some degree of intended damage, so firing from a higher altitude might get it to hit the earth further away, but it would not necessarily have enough forward velocity to do any damage. On the other hand, a projectile fired straight up is affected by two slowing forces: air resistance, and gravity itself; the vertical-fired projectile will not travel as high as it would if only wind resistance were the impeding force, and the height at which it still has enough upward velocity to cause damage is quite less than its maximal attained height. So, the "last 1500m" 'connection' problem remains, though i suspect a 90mm Howitzer might take it out with little problem. tkjtkj tkjtkj@charter.net

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