Communications satellites may be getting some competition, and the world may be hitting a new frontier of ubiquitous wi-fi. That is, if Sanswire has anything to say about it. Delivering wi-fi as long ago as 1996, they have a history of looking ahead, and their current push is for the Stratellite, a kind of airship that will float in the stratosphere, keeping stationary like a geosynchronous satellite by using GPS and small propellers powered not by fuel, but by electricity generated by the solar panels that will cover the craft's top. They say each craft will provide "clear line-of-sight to approximately 300,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Texas. However, the Companys initial plan is to use one Stratellite for each major metropolitan area."
A "Stratellite" would have advantages over a conventional satellite: "Existing satellites provide easy 'download' capabilities, but because of their high altitude are not practical for commercially viable 'two-way' high-speed data communication... Once the National Wireless Broadband Network is completed, Sanswire will be able to provide voice, video, and broadband Internet access to all parts of the country." What's more, it should cost half as much as a satellite, according to The Economist: "a typical satellite [costs] at least $40m. The satellite then typically has a lifetime of between five and seven years... Stratellites, on the other hand, will cost about $20m each, and can be reused, says Mr Molen: after hovering for 18 months they are recovered for servicing and then relaunched."
The Economist story also notes "It would also be useful in countries with little or no network infrastructure". Instead of building thousands of cell phone towers (or worse, land lines), one Stratellite could cover a quarter of India. The leapfrog potential is obvious.
WOW, i would LOVE for this to work, i can't wait!
as i can only get dial up where i live, this would be VERY VERY nice
also it should be illegal to charge 20 bucks a month (or more) for a 56k connection (10 bucks at most!)
This one demands a "first seeing, then believing" attitude. Modern airships have a great record of being planned, but never being built. One obvious example was the German Cargolifter, a gigantic airship that would have lifted heavy cargo from 50 up to 200 tons. It was planned and designed, even the hangar was built. But then, somewhere in 2002, the company went bankrupt during its next round of financing. There are plenty of this kind of examples in the airship industry.
I hope this particular stratellite will work, though.
They work. I spent about an hour at my Dad's 4th of July BBQ talking to one of the guys working on this. His particular niche was programming the data-link between Stratellite and the backbone. The prototypes already work and have been launched. They're up there right now. It's just "commercialization" details that are being ironed out.