Upgrades for Japanese mobile signal balloon

Following the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan’s north-east, Softbank – a mobile operator – has updated its airborne mobile phone station to include satellite communication capabilities.

After the huge quake back in 2011, networks all over the region faltered as signal towers were disabled or levelled completely. In response, Softbank launched a helium-filled balloon that held a mobile relay system around 100m off the ground.

The balloon transmits a 3G signal to areas within a 4km radius and also gets backhaul from a microwave transmitter. The balloon is anchored to the ground by the cable through which it receives its power.

In the updated version, a truck sat within 5km that serves as a ground station for the balloon is set up to be capable of receiving satellite communications. Systems such as this are believed to be necessary in order for national infrastructures to continue sending uninterrupted communications after a natural disaster.

A spokesperson from Softbank told The Reg that in the event of another big natural disaster, as long as the sky is open and radio waves can be received from the satellite, Softbank’s network will be available.

Softbank is among Japan’s largest telecommunication corporations. It ran one of the most effective ad campaigns of the last 10 years, featuring a white Shiba Inu dog called Otosan.

According to reports, the company is in the process of finalising plans that will see 10 similar anchored balloon flights set up in locations all over Japan.

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