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If we use tethered balloons with wireless gateways fitted on them (let's say for Cellular or LPWAN communication), they can provide much more coverage. Why aren't they used then?

While there are many instances of high-altitude balloons (like Google's Project Loon, Space Data SkySite® or this question on this StackExchange), I could find scarce resource on low-altitude tethered balloons.

What I could find was this work done in 2008 (IEEE Conference Paper) by a research lab. Another recent conference paper (2016) is this from another lab. The first paper also demonstrates that the tethered balloons turn out to be lower cost in the long run.

I wonder how come we don't have tethered-balloon based wireless gateways when they are cheaper and provide more coverage than fixed towers?

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closed as too broad by Voltage Spike, The Photon, Marcus Müller, Dave Tweed Nov 2 '18 at 23:30

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A couple of reports from think tanks saying that Thing 1 is cheaper than Thing 2 does not mean that Thing 1 is a viable business proposition. So your two reports are not nearly enough factual basis to make the assertions that you do about cost (and, presumably, coverage per $). Tethered balloons have been a thing for over 100 years, radio has been a thing for over 100 years, there has been ample opportunity for radio antennas to be hoisted by tethered balloons, and there's always someone who's enthusiastic about something. I think if it was a viable idea it'd be a thing. \$\endgroup\$ – TimWescott Nov 2 '18 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ We can happily ignore the 2008 paper because it couldn't predict the amount of data you'd need to get to and from the airborne base station; also, it completely ignores the fact that IEEE802.11b isn't a feasible standard for wide area coverage at all. The 2016 paper is of low analytical quality, and doesn't make any claims regarding financial advantages. Also, it considers WiMAX, not modern cellular standards; WiMAX links are typically modeled to be far more stationary than the average mobile cellular link. I really don't see much backing your claim that this is cheaper. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Nov 2 '18 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Tethered balloons can't hold the RF cables (I'm sure they add a few thousand pounds), the generator, and all of the RF equipment required for a cell tower. If you did have a tethered balloon cell tower it would probably be the size of a goodyear blimp \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Nov 2 '18 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ How does your tethered balloon fare in high winds? \$\endgroup\$ – Selvek Nov 2 '18 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @shivams I'm sorry, but you have no idea what you're talking about. Covering an area with LoRa is something so fundamentally different to what the papers you referred to mentioned, that I'd rather not address it here. I also didn't say "large area" and "light antenna" were mutually exclusive, I said "large area"+"light antenna"+"many ground cells" is hard. Achieving the three together becomes physically impossible because your antenna needs to be high-gain, high-power AND small. Electromagnetic waves don't work like that. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Nov 2 '18 at 19:47
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One of the reasons, I'd say:

A cell phone tower holds many antennas. Need to do maintenance, you go up, fix a given antenna.

Your balloon has many antennas. One needs maintenance. Do you bring the whole balloon down? Find a flying technician?

(And if a balloon cannot hold many antennas, then maybe just build a tower instead?)

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Yes that is in the works i believe with google's project loon where they are floating wifi stuff to enable people have internt access via air baloons.

https://www.theverge.com/2015/3/2/8129543/google-x-internet-balloon-project-loon-interview

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why is it named "Project Loon"? Did no one think of the implications of naming such an exploratory project after that particular bird? \$\endgroup\$ – TimWescott Nov 2 '18 at 22:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I really do not know. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Madison Nov 2 '18 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not tethered, not for cellphones. "It was named Project Loon, since even Google itself found the idea of providing Internet access to the remaining 5 billion population unprecedented and "loony"" - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loon_(company) \$\endgroup\$ – Bruce Abbott Nov 2 '18 at 22:40

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