Helium balloon brings mobile connectivity to Mozambique in southeastern Africa
A giant helium-filled balloon, known as an “aerostat”, is being deployed in southern Mozambique to help deliver mobile broadband to those without a reliable connection.
An aerostat works in a similar way to a traditional telecoms tower. But because the radio antenna attached to the aerostat is raised to a far higher altitude than a typical tower – around 300m above the ground – it can offer connectivity over a much wider area.
“At the end of the day, for us in the context of rural areas, height means everything. Getting up high means we can see further into the radio horizon,” says Micky Watkins, World Mobile’s CEO. “And if you can see further into the radio horizon, you can cover more people.”
World Mobile says that its aerostat offers connections over a radius of up to 130km. Watkins estimates that 12-15 towers would be needed to cover the same area.
Aerostats need to be refilled with helium approximately every two to four weeks. A crew is also required to operate the device and ensure the tether to the ground is not severed.
Watkins believes aerostats can provide an ideal solution for closing the “last mile” gap in mobile internet connectivity in Africa. Mobile network operators have been slow to provide telecoms infrastructure in remote and rural parts of the continent. This reflects how deploying towers to serve relatively small numbers of mostly low-income customers is unlikely to be profitable.
Source: African Business