Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:Why is there a need for new approaches to deliver Broadband?
A1:More and more aspects of life are becoming dependent upon having a high-speed connection to the Internet; current infrastructures have serious limitations. Cable/fibre connections in urban areas are fine but are not viable for rural or moving users. Technologies exploiting exiting telephone wires have speed limitations. Satellite systems offer excellent capabilities but have limited capacity – the technology cannot support a high number of users.
Q2:What is Framework 6?
A2:Framework 6 is a European Union supported initiative to fund Research and Development activity in the EU and beyond. Within the framework there are a number of specific "Strategic Objectives" to direct potential organisations towards generally set goals. The CAPANINA program was formulated to address the specific call to provide "Broadband for All"
Q3:I thought "3G" was going to do everything for the mobile user?
A3:The much hyped and delayed 3G mobile phone infrastructure will develop the capability of mobile communications beyond the capabilities of today's "2G" systems, offering higher speeds and more facilities. In contrast, CAPANINA will exploit the use of higher frequencies, using line of site aerial "dishes" to provide cost effective and efficient use of the airwaves to provide high speed connections to stationary users or users on vehicles etc. CAPANINA will not offer communications direct to a mobile user's handset from a HAP.
Q4:Are airships practical and reliable – problems with Zeppelins do not inspire confidence?
A4:Airship technology has developed considerably in recent years. Clearly, the very old images of hydrogen filled airships going up in smoke have long since disappeared with the use of helium. Multi-walled and multi-celled airships provide significant protection from damage. For a communications platform an airship would remain on station in a semi-permanent manner, not continuously moving around to transport goods or people. Furthermore, the slow speeds of an airship relative to a ‘plane is not a disadvantage for this application.
Q5:How will all the equipment be powered?
A5:Solar power will be used (similar to the way orbiting satellites are powered) In the stratosphere there is no need to worry about clouds blocking out the sunlight.
Q6:Are solar powered "gliders" viable?
A6:Solar powered "gliders" with electric motors driving propellers have been demonstrated. These provide a real alternative to airships for proving a platform to support communications equipment.
Q7:Can HAPs based systems be easily maintained?
A7:HAPs can be periodically brought back to earth for upgrades / maintenance etc. In contrast satellites are in general a once only shot – if things go wrong there is usually no recovery option.
Q8:We have seen a lot of hype about technology in the past, when will this technology be available to the man in the street
A8:Delivery of Broadband from HAPs to fixed users is viable within a 3 to 5 year time window, with services to travelling users estimated to be approximately two years later.
Q9:What products and services will require broadband infrastructure?
A9:The list is almost endless and limited only by our ingenuity to create. Examples of services benefiting from broadband connections include
  • Video on demand (watch the film of your choice when you want to)
  • Video conferencing
  • Internet browsing
  • Downloading "media" files
  • Interactive games
  • Business to Business e-commerce
Q10:How much will all this cost to use?
A10:Providing a simple answer to this question is not straightforward. The cost per minute for a user; or the cost of building the infrastructure? Estimates suggest that a HAPs infrastructure would be less than one tenth of a satellite infrastructure. Additionally, a HAP system could support many more users within a specific area, typically 1000 times more than a satellite. HAPs will offer cheaper solutions for medium density areas filling the gap between cables/fibre for high-density cities and satellite for sparsely populated areas.
Q11:These solar-powered airships or planes: would they be stationary or would they move through the sky?
A11:The craft will be quasi-stationary. The plane will circle about a fixed point (typically 1-3km radius). People suggest that the solar powered airships will remain within a 1km cube.
Q12:Would a HAP be manned or unmanned?
A12:They are intended to be unmanned, although some other projects are being devised with manned stratospheric jet aircraft.
Q13:How would a HAP-based high-speed Internet solution prove "cheaper and more efficient than current technologies," as it says in the CAPANINA press release?
A13:Compared with terrestrial communications HAPs will reach a much wider area of coverage, replacing lots of expensive infrastructure. Compared with satellites a HAP will be able to serve 1000 times the number of users in a given area. The user density will be much closer to that of terrestrial, but with similar infrastructure to that of a satellite. HAPs also will not have a big launch cost. Any equipment does not need to be fully space qualified - missions will be much shorter, and HAPs can be repaired or upgraded.
Q14:Would the project rely on a standard wireless data protocol like 802.16a or 802.20? Or would it employ a more bespoke connection technology? I suppose I'm really asking how CAPANINA proposes to offer data speeds some 200 times faster than ADSL?
A14:These issues will be looked at in more detail during the project. We have already extensively looked at the feasibility of using IEEE802.16 for fixed user applications from HAPs. This may need modifications at the HAP end, depending on the configuration, but not at the user end. The train application will require modifications - IEEE802.20 may be a possibility, but that is intended to operate with much lower frequency bands - so it may require modifications to the physical layer.
Q15:What does investigate HAP propogation mean?
A15:Propagation is the study of the physical processes that affect the radio signal between transmitter and receiver. HAPs have frequency bands allocated in the mm-wave bands 31/28GHz and 47/48GHz. In these frequency bands a big issue is signal attenuation due to rain. Often links are qualified to operate with a certain availability (say 99.9%). We need to ensure that both the fixed and mobile applications have links engineered to be reliable.
Q16:What does investigate HAP resource management mean?
A16:Resource management deals with allocation of link capacity to users. We need to ensure that there is sufficient capacity available to a user at specific location and at a specific time. We need to ensure capacity is located efficiently - capacity is money - if we do not deliver the capacity with appropriate 'quality' the user will not buy the service.
Q17:Has anything specifically on "Operations" been published by the CAPANINA group?
A17:No not yet, but some articles can be found on the individual partner websites that can be accessed from this web site - Capanina Partners
Q18:The CAPANINA solution would seem to fill a gap between ADSL and a leased line for the small business user?
A18:One of the aspects of our project will be to establish suitable business models for future offerings. The gap between ADSL and leased line for the home/small business market may well be one that the project will focus on.