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A group headed by Professor Tsutomu Suzuki at the Nippon Institute of Technology recently concluded a six month long study in the idea and concluded it was feasible. The group also reported on what research and development work needs to be done before such a system can be realized.
The report said the "stratospheric radio-relay system" could be built by installing relay and communications equipment in unmanned long-term floating platforms. These could include 270-meter long airships equipped with communications equipment weighing one ton and powered by solar energy. The system could provide the basic infrastructure for high-speed communications networks, such as Internet access and mobile video conferencing.
Benefits of such a system include the ability to access the system from almost anywhere in Japan or the seas surrounding the country, because of the large area each airship could cover. While not putting a number on it, the MPT said several airships would be needed to cover Japan. The airships would float at an altitude of 20-km, about twice as high as aircraft generally fly.
Coverage from each station would vary with the use of three different types of footprint. The local area footprint would stretch to cover a radius of 100-km and be accessible at a 10-degree or greater angle of elevation. Residential coverage would send a 35-km radius footprint on major cities and be accessible at angles of elevation of 30-degrees of more. In major metropolitan areas, 10-km wide cells would provide service, each available at 60-degree of larger angles of elevation.
The MPT said that initial tests will begin in 1998, using small size prototypes around 30-meters long an at heights of just 300-meters. From the second half of 1999 into the first half of 2001, the ministry plans tests involving medium sized prototypes, 80 to 100-meters long and 17-km above ground. The final verification tests would be conducted from the second half of 2001 into 2002 when actual size craft would be floated at 20-km above ground.
(19970701/Press contact: Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, +81-3-3592-9157, fax +81-3-3504-4196, World Wide Web: http://www.mpt.go.jp /Reported By Newsbytes News Network: http://www.newsbytes.com /MPT970701/PHOTO)
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