Broadband Out of the Stratosphere

As mentioned above, the distance to satellites introduces a delay with the receiving dish on the ground. After clicking a link on a webpage, users of satellite broadband notice a split second pause followed by the sudden and rapid download of the new page. For general browsing of the Internet, listening to audio, and watching video, this is not a major hindrance. However, other applications like online gaming and voice-over-IP require little or no latency at all to work effectively. Imagine trying to play a rapid shooting game over the net with any sort of delay. You just cannot win.

Sanswire Networks is developing an interesting solution to the problem. Instead of launching satellites into space, they plan to launch “stratellite” airships into the stratosphere (perhaps as high as 13 miles up). The latency of a roundtrip signal from ground to stratellite would be insignificant for most if not all Internet applications.

The company successfully conducted a trial of their technology using a helicopter instead of a stratellite, the first of which has not yet been built. Testers were able to surf the Internet and make telephone calls to colleagues in other countries. Sanswire Networks plans to announce a construction and launch schedule for its stratellites soon. If successful, stratellites would hover above a fixed location and provide a stationary platform for Internet, cellular, HDTV, and other telecommunications uses. After 18 months a replacement stratellite would be sent up and the original brought down for retrofitting before returning to duty. In effect, the technology would act like a 13 mile high cellular tower with ground coverage the size of Texas, though the company plans on placing one stratellite over each major metropolitan area.

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet. His first published poem, "Roadside Freak Show," arrives on August 21, 2017 in Impossible Archetype.  His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (, on Goodreads (richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).