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Broadband from the sky

Airships to provide high-speed connections to rural towns

A €5.6m project involving 14 partners from across Europe and Japan hopes to make broadband available to remote areas via so-called Haps(high-altitude platforms).

Scientists at the University of York hope to permanently install giant airships or solar-powered aircrafts at an altitude 20km above aeroplane flight paths but below current satellite orbits. The project, according to scientists, will deliver broadband connections, which are 2,000 times faster than via traditional modem and 200 times faster that today's 'wired' ADSL broadband.

Haps provide a much cheaper option than satellites and other available technologies as they do not require masts or underground cabling.

"The opportunities offered by Haps are exciting," said Dr David Grace, the project's principal scientific officer. "Demand for fast communication is increasing all over the world, and this technology offers a unique way of delivering broadband inexpensively to people at home, in the office, and on the move."

Researchers will develop Hap-based systems capable of using the spectrum efficiently to reach all areas, and will include steerable antennas using the latest digital signal processing.

The first objective of the project is to deliver broadband connections to rural areas across Europe, which the team hopes to achieve over the next four years. The scientists also plan to deliver broadband to moving trains using smart antennas.

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