According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a company called Space Data Corp. is planning to launch weather-style balloons in an effort to blanket rural areas with Wireless telephone service. This story may not have gone anywhere, if not for Google's apparent interest. According to WSJ,
"...Space Data Corp., already launches 10 balloons a day across the Southern U.S., providing specialized telecom services to truckers and oil companies. These (sic) balloons soar 20 miles into the stratosphere, each carrying a shoebox-size payload of electronics that acts like a mini cellphone "tower" covering thousands of square miles below."Rural America is still highly under served by wireless services. While this idea may seem a bit kooky on the surface, the company says a single balloon can serve an area otherwise requiring 40 cell towers.
"While the balloons are cheap and disposable at $50 a pop, the transceivers they carry are worth about $1,500. Once a transceiver is released from its balloon to parachute back to earth, there's no way to predict where it will land. So Space Data has hired 20 hobbyists with GPS devices to track them down."Space data pays $50 to dairy farmers and hobbyists per launch of each balloon, and $100 per balloon to recover them.