Cellular-News reports that somebody is considering using the Russian Myasishchev M-55 spy plane as a flying mobile mast. The story appears based on a piece from the Russian site Novosti, which alleges that makers of the plane are negotiating with “an unnamed Western firm” about the resumption of manufacturing of the plane, last made in 1994. This unknown firm would then use the plane — which flies at altitudes of up to 21km (or about 70,000 feet) — to relay telecommunications signals.
This sounds awfully similar to the broadband-by-blimp that was supposed to be delivered by airships called “stratellites”. The company behind those said the airships would float 64,000 feet above the earth, and provide mobile and broadband service to an area the size of Texas, but despite several years’ worth of promises, the plan seems to be having a hard time getting off the ground (rimshot).
Certainly this idea of airborne network infrastructure is possible; military forces around the world use it already. But the economics of running such a network for consistent, around-the-clock public commercial use remain prohibitive at best. While using Soviet spy planes sounds a lot cooler than some big balloons, it’s hardly likely to prove and more feasible.