tech

Softbank tests balloon as emergency cell phone base

23 Comments

Softbank Mobile said Thursday that it had successfully tested its technology for placing a mobile cell phone base station in a balloon for use in an emergency. Softbank carried out the test, sending text messages and making calls from the balloon, which was sent up in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, on Wednesday afternoon.

The technology, which is designed to provide mobile communications in the event of a natural disaster, consists of an arrangement of balloons carrying a microwave transmitter that lock onto a truck-based ground station, which can connect to multiple balloons and is connected to the rest of the cellular infrastructure, Sankei Shimbun reported.

Softbank said on its website that a 7-meter-diameter dish is installed in a balloon around 4 meters in height that is powered by its tethering lines. The balloon is sent around 100 meters into the air from where it can provide cell phone coverage to a range of up to 5 kilometers.

The company tested the balloon's ability to adjust its position based on wind speed and direction and continue to point its microwave beam, as well as its data transfer speeds and ease of connection, Sankei reported.

A spokesperson said Softbank hopes to manufacture a working mobile cell phone base station by the end of the year.

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23 Comments
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Probably better than the service they have now.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Cool.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Softbank said on its website that a 7-meter-diameter dish is installed in a balloon around 4 meters in height that is powered by its tethering lines.

...and the tethering lines are getting power from... WHERE? In most natural disasters, the local power grid is out - sometimes for extended periods.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Fadamor A generator in the truck I would think.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

...and the tethering lines are getting power from... WHERE? In most natural disasters, the local power grid is out - sometimes for extended periods.

A generator on the ground of course. Do you think that they forgot that there would be no power available from the grid?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

fantastic idea. Hope we never have to use it though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What a brilliant and interesting concept! If they need more service nodes, they'll just need to send up more balloons! Hope this idea will be open for use by the other providers as well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm against this as it does not use safe N- powered energy, until they are attached to a 30/40 year old reactor, it's just a useful device to help the masses of tax payers who should consider politicians can't yet make money from it...yet.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Nice!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why can't they spend more time improving the poor service they offer now?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

and what about typhoons? Bye Bye Balloon?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Clever idea.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why can't they spend more time improving the poor service they offer now?

You won't be complaining their bad service when it's the only service.

Planning for the worst, preparing... I wish Tepco would have done the same. At least Softbank won't be caught with their pants down.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It would be nice if ALL the cellphone companies came up with brighter ideas to keep up in contact in times of emergency situations, not just my provider, SoftBank.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Cricky

I'm against this as it does not use safe N- powered energy, until they are attached to a 30/40 year old reactor, it's just a useful device to help the masses of tax payers who should consider politicians can't yet make money from it...yet.

any excuse you get on your soapbox and have a whinge. unload your preaching in a more relevant space, this is about a device made to help people in an emergency not your opinion on the Fukushima disaster and the government.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Cricky

"I'm against this as it does not use safe N- powered energy, until they are attached to a 30/40 year old reactor, it's just a useful device to help the masses of tax payers who should consider politicians can't yet make money from it...yet."

Relevance to this article please? Where does it say anything about using nuclear power? Or that it is being funded by tax-payer money for that matter? Last I heard, Softbank wasn't a government company, and in all likelihood, never will be. This technology will be extremely beneficial to everyone (including you if you live in Japan) when another natural disaster strikes and we will need to communicate when hardlines are down (hardly any cellphones worked back in 3/11, well, Softbank anyway (which was my provider at the time) as far as I remember).

I agree with pexa02, and while I sympathize with your disdain for the government and how they seem to get away so easily with their thievery, this probably isn't a relevant article to vent those frustrations. It's rare enough that we get to read good news such as this technological advancement. Let's try not to spoil it by bringing in the negativity from so many other topics we read these days.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A generator on the ground of course. Do you think that they forgot that there would be no power available from the grid?

Why not? Its not like even nuclear engineers here even properly prepare for eventualities, is it?

Even if they did remember the need for generators, they will probably place them on a fault line, in a place that is prone to flooding, in an area where it will attract lightning, in a place so remote it would take her crew an hour to get there on a fine day, and not even have a means to alert the crew for the system being down, and no standing orders for them either.

And if they forgot generators, perhaps they prepared batteries that will keep it running for 2 hours, then silence, assuming of course the crew even gets there before the power comes back on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My main concern is health not radius. It uses a microwave transmitter with a huge radius of up to 5 km. What kind of transmitter, and are there safer alternatives? If possible I would always choose something with less harmful radiation and less radius. But maybe there is nothing less harmful.

I also wonder about walky talky technology and how advanced the best standards are and if it is possible for peopel to use walky talkies in present day instead of cell phones.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sarcasm? Read my previous comments over the last mmmm 3 years...I forgive you

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Fadamor A generator in the truck I would think.

I had thought of that, but:

consists of an arrangement of balloons carrying a microwave transmitter that lock onto a truck-based ground station, which can connect to multiple balloons and is connected to the rest of the cellular infrastructure, Sankei Shimbun reported.

If the balloons are tethered to and get power from the truck, why do they need the microwave transmitter to "lock onto a truck-based ground station"? A fiber-optic bundle run down the tether would work just as well. No, these baloons are in places OTHER than the truck. There might be ONE balloon above the truck, but the others in the "arrangement" are elsewhere and getting power from...?.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nuke jokes and sarcasm just is't funny when there's nothing to laugh about. Maybe we can look back and get a chuckle about the melt down in about 100 years from now and a good laugh around 10,000+ years from now.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Another thing I'm having difficulty with is the spatial realities of the description:

a 7-meter-diameter dish is installed in a balloon around 4 meters in height

"Diameter" implies a circular dish. So how, exactly, do you get a 7-meter dish into a balloon only 4 meters in height?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Its great a company would go this far to ensure communications are available in a disaster. It would surely save lives.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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