Google’s Project Loon to launch 300 balloon next year in bid to encircle the globe

29 Oct 2015


Google's Project Loon plans its first round-the-world coverage in 2016. Its vice president, Mike Cassidy, told the BBC that the team hoped to launch 300-plus balloons next year to "make a continuous string around the world."

Mike Cassidy, vice president, Google's Project LoonThe idea is to ensure the presence of at least one balloon covering a particular area and if one drifted away, another immediately takes its place.

If the team were to be able to succeed in deploying its first continuous string, which would cover the Southern Hemisphere, it planned to start taking its first beta commercial customers. While the goal depended on whether things would go well for the team in the near future, Project Loon's partnership with Indonesian providers was a deal already done.

The team had joined forces with local providers Indosat, Telkomsel and XL Axiata, which would give them the ability to transmit their signals to even far-off islands by bouncing them from one balloon to the next.

According to a Google announcement, only one in three Indonesians had access to the internet, but that could change with the Project Loon initiative. In a similar test run, Google is conducting tests in Sri Lanka this year, which would continue till March 2016 (See: Google in talks with Sri Lanka to provide connectivity with Project Loon).

Project Loon aims to bring the internet within the reach of some 100 million people in Indonesia through its balloons floating 20 kilometers above the earth.

The company said on Thursday that the country's top three mobile network operators - Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata - have agreed to test the balloon-powered LTE Internet connections over Indonesia next year.

The use of balloons to fill coverage gaps where traditional broadband connectivity could not penetrate was particularly relevant in Indonesia, an archipelago of over 17,000 islands with jungles and mountains.

In a blog post,  Cassidy said the project could overcome the difficulties of spreading equipment across the islands, providing connectivity to even the most remote islands. He added, that the tests represented an important step towards bringing all of Indonesia online.

Only one out of three people in the Southeast Asian country had connection to the internet, and over the next few years, Google hoped Loon could partner with local providers to put high-speed LTE Internet connections within reach of over 100 million currently unconnected people, Cassidy wrote.


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