Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Space Data Successfully Completes CDMA Balloon Flights

I had not heard of this company before but Space Data Corporation has announced that last month it conducted successful trials of its CDMA SkySite®, a major milestone in the development of economically practical wireless voice and data communications to large areas with sparse population. It is expected that each SkySite will be able to provide coverage over approximately 20,000 square miles. The use balloon platforms to position basestations in the sky to enable communications in remote areas that do not have coverage.

During two trial flights, a prototype miniaturized CDMA 1X-RTT base station was carried aloft over a remote area in western Utah by the SkySite balloon platform to altitudes as high as 60,000 feet. At that point, the 1900 MHz PCS band BTS was used to carry calls from, to, and between ordinary CDMA handsets located on the ground approximately 60 miles away. Call quality was excellent, with low frame error rates on both the forward and reverse channels. Backhaul was provided by a high capacity digital microwave link operating in the 2.4 GHz band. After completion of each trial, the BTS “payload” was released, parachuted to the ground and recovered intact.

The successful trial confirmed the technical feasibility of serving ordinary wireless handsets from substantial distances using the SkySite system. Applications include serving remote areas of low population densities, “fill-in” for coverage gaps in rural networks, and providing emergency communications in areas where terrestrial systems are out of service due to widespread disaster situations.

I think this is an interesting method for enabling communications in remote areas if it turns out to be as cost effective as they describe. It seems well suited for temporary situations like military operations or disaster situations in remote areas or to increase capacity temporarily in certain emergency situations. It seems like providing long term coverage would hard to justify from a cost perspective.

What do you think?

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