Thursday, June 08, 2006

Balloon Cell Towers Starting To Take Flight

Yahoo News picks up an article about weather balloons cell towers, which have "the potential to help carriers extend cell phone coverage -- without the hassles of conventional towers." Allen Nogee at In-Stat/MDR said, "Cell coverage is still not ubiquitous because it can be difficult to deploy cell towers in some areas. Approaches such as using weather balloons may help them reach more areas."

According to the article, "cell towers are expensive, costing from $100,000 to more than $1 million to set up. They also present logistical problems, such as clearing local regulations and finding suitable placement." The article looks at the efforts of one company, Space Data, that is attempting to use "standard weather balloons, which cost about $50 each, to carry special purpose cell towers. These towers are small -- 10 cubic inches -- and light -- less than 12 pounds. The balloons travel 20 miles above the earth, well above commercial airliner pathways. Because of their highflying position, the devices cover a larger area -- from 50 miles to 500 miles -- than traditional cell towers."

Neil Strother at NPD Group said, "Now that carriers have deployed cell stations throughout metropolitan areas, they are searching for ways to reach more remote locations, like Montana, as well as camp sites and parks."

Regarding how balloon towers will perform, Ira Brodsky at Datacomm Research said, "The biggest problem is keeping the cell tower aloft." The article also looks at the challenges involved in the technology, which In-Stat's Nogee sums up, "The areas that still lack cell coverage are spread out and sparsely populated."