The explosion in demand for broadband communications services has led to a proliferation of ugly mobile phone masts disfiguring the landscape. However, they could soon be replaced by airships or pilotless light aircraft, beaming down a new generation of radio communications.
Researchers at the University of York are working on multi-media systems that could be installed in High Altitude Platforms (HAPs). These platforms would fly higher than Concorde, but would be much closer to earth than satellites, and would offer better and cheaper communications than either the present cellular phones or satellite systems.HAPs can deliver Internet access and email to both stationary and mobile users- existing ways of providing internet access could become obsolete.
Because they would operate at extremely high frequencies, HAPs would also have the capacity for large numbers of TV and video channels, and could replace current satellite or cable TV systems.A further benefit would be their flexibility to user demands. For example, HAPs could focus on the city center by day and then prioritize the suburbs in the evening.
The work in the University of York’s Communications Research Group Electronics Department is being funded through a joint European grant. Leader Tim Tozer said: ‘This opens up vast new horizons. It has colossal potential, and indeed may be the only way we are going to fulfil all the demands for wireless services. High Altitude Platforms will be able to provide enhanced communications in highly developed regions where there is large demand, as well as services in areas where there may be little or no existing infrastructure.’