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Softbank testing blimp-based phone network for emergencies

updated 06:40 pm EDT, Fri May 11, 2012

Helium balloons with phone mast tech tested in Japan

Japanese cell network Softbank is testing blimps to determine if the dirigibles could be used for network coverage during natural disasters. If proved successful, the technique could be used to keep communication lines open during events such as last year's earthquake and tsunami.

Tethered balloons containing helium with a small payload of cell-tower electronics would be floated 300 feet above ground as a relay to a company truck, providing coverage for a three kilometer radius. The payload could communicate with the truck up to three miles away, which in turn would be connected to the phone network itself. Larger network carrier DoCoMo, in contrast to this plan, added more long-range masts to its own network with smaller transmitter trucks for emergency use.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Japan has granted permission to Softbank to conduct the trials in Aichi Prefecture, 170 miles away from Tokyo. [via PC World]

by MacNN Staff



  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    300 Feet

    A blimp 300 feet in the air should provide coverage over a lot more than over a radius of 3 km. (And note the mixed measuring systems.)

    In the U.S., I'd love to see high altitude blimps permanently in place to fill in all the gaps in coverage that are too expensive to otherwise cover. They could include a scheme that gives automatic high priority to 911 calls.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: 300 feet

    You're assuming they have the same equipment used on the towers, though.

    And they could never do this in the US. Someone would be complaining about it blocking out the sun, or ruining their view from their estate.

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