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An Atlanta spin-off from GlobeTel called Sanswire Networks will be launching a giant, solar-powered airship next month that will be able to provide wireless data and voice access to areas of earth as large as Texas. While access to the 'stratellite' (for 'airship satellite') will necessitate a special antenna to transmit to the ship 13 miles above the earth, the speeds are being reported as 'DSL alternative' at least. Even if the lag is bad, it sounds as if the bandwidth might be faster than the generally anemic satellite connections (then again, it could be bouncing to another satellite, although that seems unlikely).

Guess we'll find out next month. Too cool.

Not quite out of this world [TheEconomist]

Tim Farley writes:You are right to think of lag ("Even if the lag is bad...") when you think of satellite internet, but you gotta remember these blimps are orders of magnitude closer to earth than geosynch satellites.

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A geosynch orbits at 22,000 miles. At the speed of light, that's about 110 milliseconds up and then down, for a total signal lag of 220 milliseconds. That's quite significant in internet terms, usually you can round-trip a packet to a server with a good link anywhere in the net in under half that. And of course this is going to be ON TOP OF any lag the internet itself has. So that's why you have double or quadruple the lag on internet links.

These blimps hover at 13 miles. That's 1700 times closer, therefore 1700 times faster. The total round trip would be only 70 MICROseconds, quite insignificant in internet lag terms. (Data probably spends longer than that bouncing around inside your PC and your DSL modem).

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Incidentally, Google's calculator feature is great for figuring out stuff like this, since it understands units:

Sanswire lag: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&q=13+miles+divided+by+c

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Geosynch lag http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&q=22000+miles+divided+by+c