back to article Google to build 80,000 foot radio tower?

Google's quest to deploy wireless networks without all that mucking about with steel towers has led its roving eye to settle on Space Data Corp. The company, which provides wireless connectivity via hydrogen-filled balloons floating around the southern US, has caught Google's interest according to reports in the Wall Street …


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  1. Chris Walker

    Barrage Balloons!

    Sounds to me like Google could cosy up quite nicely to Homeland Security on this one.

  2. Hank

    Host a tower in your back yard...

    Google should offer to pay people to put up towers in their yards. If you host a tower, you get free access to the network and google will take care of all the paperwork for you.

    I'd sign up in a minute and try to get all my neighbors accessing the net via my tower. How about unlimited voice and data for $50/month?

  3. Anonymous Coward


    Why not use mesh topography with each users handset retransmitting data to a supernode then to back haul? Latency wouldn't be as much of an issue with the 700mhz internet access as it would be for voice. I understand the problems with this method (eavsedropping, hacking, disruption, legality, etc), but it seems like building a new cell network from scratch would have a few of its own problems. Google is the algorthym god right? Maybe they should attack network routing?

  4. Demon
    Dead Vulture

    check your facts

    "Space Data Corp. The company, which provides wireless connectivity via hydrogen-filled balloons floating around the southern US,"

    Space Data uses Helium and not Hydrogen in the balloons, hydrogen is not permitted in use with electrical equipment as it is very flammable, helium is not flammable.

  5. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo

    Well I'll visualise it as

    A huge tower with a glowing Google eye on the top, similar to Sauron's tower

    Google is a much bigger threat to privacy and competition than Microsoft yet nobody bats an eyelid, while I'm here I'll just state, I don't like them, I don't trust them and I don't use them.

  6. b166er


    The Google AdShip floats by, bedecked with billboard ads and beaming CyberAds to anything within distance that will listen :(

    I suppose Google aren't considering WiMAX because they wouldn't be able to monopolise it?

    'hobbyists' cheered me up a bit though ;p

  7. Anonymous Coward


    It's smoke, and it's flames now, the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring-mast... Oh, the technology!

  8. Leo Rampen
    Thumb Down

    @Demon: They use hydrogen


    according to the linked wall street journal article, hydrogen is used

    It makes a specific point of mentioning why.

  9. Alan Donaly
    Black Helicopters

    Sounds like a good

    use for a solar powered drone alleviating the need for all that fleshy service.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    good technology

    We've got photographs of men on the moon,

    We've got water that is good for us,

    We've got coffee that's instantaneous,

    We've got buildings that are very tall,

    We've got cigarettes that are low in tar,

    We've got policemen can tell us who we are,

    We can reproduce a work of art,

    We've got missiles can tear the world apart,

    Good, good, good, good, good, good technology.

  11. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects


    Apropos of nothing, anyone here want to give me an hand to compile a database:

    In the spirit of FSF I won't be paying you. (Even if I could.)

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Helium is running out - Stop wasting it

    I think there is only so much helium in the world ..... Every ballon popped = Helium lost for ever as it escapes into space


  13. Anonymous Coward



    Nice idea but it wouldn't work. The reason your mobile phone battery can be really small, and also last more than 5 minutes, is because it doesn't transmit very much, it transmits to a site with some huge receiving equipment, able to pick up very small signals, and the response back to you is pretty big, enabling your receiver to be small and low power. If handsets retransmit data, they would need much bigger power sources to do so.

  14. G R Goslin

    Re- Helium is running out - Stop wasting it

    Not so. Helium is sourced from the alpha decay of uranium, thorium, and their decay products, and trapped in natural gas reservoirs. Easily extracted from the gas in processing, we are assured of plenty of helium until the gas runs out, that is. But lets not waste it, though.

  15. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects


    Any idea how much power that dated hunk of space crystal, Pioneer, was sending out last time they received a signal from it?

    March 3, 1972 Spacecraft launched.

    March 2, 2002 Successful reception of telemetry. 39 minutes of clean data received from a distance of 79.83 AU.

    Whatever it was at source, 155W at launch, 140W by Jupiter (816,520,800 km 5.458104 AU) it was a lot less by bye bye's. And all decreasing by the square of its distance.

    Presumably the equipment used on it was designed in the '60s and built some years prior to launch. Likewise the receivers would have been designed at least, in the previous millennium.

    The point is that no matter how many moons they have to launch, these earthbound satellites can do the job. It is just a question of feasibility when other needs are factored in.

    But the idea that it can be used as an aid in military communications makes it a certainty. The United States of Americans can't afford to ignore that implication, other countries won't.

    The Yanks will need to be in the forefront of such technology just so they can maintain the ability to crush it if the need arose.

    (And I am not saying they shouldn't.

    How would it be if all the Africans who really need our help, rather than the East Europeans who don't, were able to communicate between pirate ships for instance? And sneak in to stay alive, as compared to everybody else who just want to come here to make their fortune?

    We too need to be able to down their comms. It's a tradition.)

  16. Anonymous Coward


    Mist transmitters.

    A fog drifts over the city - nigh on invisible being it so thin and spaced out, high up as well.

    Each droplet is a tiny transmitter, all of the millions of droplets together forming the mist - a giant floating grid transmitter requiring nothing more than wind and sun to move and have sufficient power for each droplet making the whole.

    Who needs masts?

  17. Jon

    Sounds fun

    "Recovery missions can get intense. Workers [hobbyists] have had to pluck transceivers out of trees in Louisiana, rappel down rocky cliffs in Arizona, trudge through swamps and kayak across ponds. Space Data pays them $100 per transceiver recovered."

  18. Neil Spellings
    Thumb Down

    Business model

    So these guys are sending up $2500 worth of equipment every day and just hoping that someone will retrieve it for a $100 bounty?

    How sustainable is that? Also, what percentage of fallen balloons are recovered? Their "green" credentials wont be that great if there are hundreds of lost transmitters, all with batteries presumably, decaying away across the countryside.

  19. Feargal Reilly

    @Helium running out

    More precisely, the US reserves of helium are running out. While it can be extracted while processing natural gas, it usually isn't as it isn't economically worthwhile. There is likely to be an increase in the cost of helium and changes to how/where it is processed over the next few decades, but it's not likely to run out anytime soon. As G R Goslin has said, best not waste it though.

  20. Art McFall

    Mesh Networks - the answer?

    Radiant Networks tried something along those line around 8 years ago. They went bust a while ago I beleive.

  21. Simon Greenwood
    Thumb Up

    re: good technology

    Ah, the Red Guitars, Hull's great lost 80s band. Shame that almost all of the rest of their songs (including the b-side of Good Technology) was afro-tinged rubbish.

    (Sorry if you were a member of the band, but it was, really.)

  22. Ash

    @G R Goslin

    "we are assured of plenty of helium until the gas runs out"

    Uhhh... Yeah. Good point.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Meshnet...

    So you're proposing a network that only works if there's a few other people in the relative vicinity. And one that bleeds a battery dry even if you're not using it? Doesn't get my vote in the mobile environment

    (PS - el Reg - it's not a cell phone! This should have been banned long before the ill-fated "mobe")

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    spinal tap and the art of networking

    ...and they ended up with 80,000 one foot tall towers.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    80,000 foot radio tower ?

    Funny, not one mention of this anywhere in this article.

    Is this a game whereby the aim is to make the title have absolutely nothing to do with the article ?

    And since Google did not respond to requests for information, and an 80,000 foot tower is clearly impossible (radio or otherwise) then maybe the title should more accurately have stated


  26. stuart Thompson
    Thumb Up

    Highly Trained Service Personell

    You've got to love any company who's engineers seem to consist of farmers and nutters chasing gps balloons round fields

    M$ take note

  27. mezla

    And on the 8th day there was Google.

    ...and seeing Google, and their incredibly incredible tower of radio-ey goodness, the Lord smote them, for the Lord wanted the sandpit to [him|her]self.

  28. Shabble

    Femtocells to the rescue

    Quote: "Google should offer to pay people to put up towers in their yards"

    Imagine being able to join your current 3G mobile to your home/work/Starbucks broadband connection.

    Well, now you can!

    This would cut down massively on the connections per tower, allowing a reduction in sites for provision of outdoor coverage.

  29. T. Harrell

    Red tape?

    This whole idea is a bit unrealistic.. FAA regs are don't apply to balloons such as these when the payload is less than a six pounds, but above that, the launch must be filed with the local ATC and there are stricter regulations governing the balloon. I doubt the FAA would allow a bunch of balloons being launched every day across the country with payloads heavy enough to support a significant number of simultaneous connections. They'd have to route all air traffic around them to avoid a collision.

    I believe there was a different company developing a similar idea, though: unmanned dirigibles with a powered flight capability and solar panels. Last I read over a year ago, they were testing with assistance from the FAA and NASA. Supposedly, the blimps could maintain a position for 6+ months and support enough weight to carry a significant communications platform, assuming the FAA approved the plan. Haven't heard about that recently, though.

  30. James

    Electricity pylons /are/ used

    National Grid manage selected towers for phone antennae & their guys do the climbing about.

    Biggest problem is finding a pylon where you want one due to the linear nature of their network.

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