UK company SkyLinc has developed a system that could provide broadband to even the remotest rural areas of the UK - by balloon.
Its Low-Cost Integrated Broadband Radio Access (Libra) system will offer symmetrical broadband connections, allowing users to download and upload at the same speed, 2Mbps.
According to Mark Hobby, SkyLinc's technical engineer, only 18 balloons would be needed to provide total UK coverage.
The system consists of antennas and fibre optic cables attached to a helium-filled balloon or envelope, known technically as an aerostat, which is flown at a height of 1.5km.
Tethers hold the balloon stationary while the fibre optic cable is used to transmit signals between a base station on the ground and the antennas in the balloon.
According to Hobby, the system is robust enough to withstand most severe weather conditions, although it would have to be grounded in situations such as hurricanes.
End-users do not need to have a separate uplink (such as modem, ISDN or leased line) because the system uses a wireless radio link to the elevated platform via a receiver dish similar in size to a digital TV dish.
According to SkyLinc, just one Libra system can provide 15,000 uncontended links of 2Mbps and cover an area of 80km.
The company, which has already run a successful trial of the technology in Yorkshire and has been awarded government funding. It plans to have a commercially available service for businesses within the next year, but would not say in which region of the country.
SkyLinc said the wholesale price to Internet Service Providers would be about £300 a month.
"We have had a lot of interest from internet service providers and will set up a commercial programme within nine to 12 months. We hope this is in the UK but will go where the investment is," Hobby told vnunet.com.
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