Network: Bytes

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The Independent Culture
PLANS FOR an airborne broadband wireless network came closer to realisation last week when Angel Technologies launched its High Altitude Long Operation (Halo) jet aircraft over the Mojave desert in California. The aircraft is designed to deliver telephone and Internet communications while flying in a fixed pattern above urban areas. "What we have done is put all the communications' capabilities of what might be a communications satellite 22,000 miles high... and put it 10 miles over a city," Peter Diamandis, Angel's CEO, said.

Halo's data-relay equipment will provide a footprint of 50 to 75 miles for high-speed (up to 25 megabits per second) voice and data transmissions from its cruising altitude of 50,000ft. Signals will be stronger than those beamed from low-earth satellites, and will not be blocked by buildings and mountains, as is the case with transmissions from towers. Diamandis said that costs were lower than using satellites. One hundred planes could be built for $700m (pounds 412m). The cost of launching the Iridium satellite network was $4.4bn (pounds 2.6bn).

By bypassing existing fibre-based communications networks, which charge access fees, Angel intends to deliver high-speed, low-cost communications, starting in Los Angeles in the year 2000.