One of the objectives of Google is to provide affordable internet access to the far-flung areas of the world using high-altitude balloons. To achieve this goal, the search engine giant launched Project Loon with an experimental pilot in New Zealand in June 2013.
Project Loon is a network of high-altitude balloons in the stratosphere that can beam internet connection to rural and remote areas of the world.
Google has been testing Project Loon in partnership with telecommunications companies such as Vodafone in New Zealand, Telstra in Australia, and Telofonica in Latin America. The tech giant achieved significant milestones since launching the project.
Project Loon can deliver 15mbps internet connection
Astro Teller, head of X unit (formerly Google X) at Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) said, “We’ve busted a lot of balloons. Today our balloons are doing pretty much everything we’d need a complete system to do.”
Teller said the latest inexpensive balloons developed by the company travelled around the world 19 times over 187 days last year. He also noted that the balloons can deliver internet connection at about 15 megabits per second (mbps), fast enough to watch a video.
Project Loon already completed more than 10.5 million miles of test flights over New Zealand, Australia, and France.
Google is now in commercial discussions with telcos
According to Teller, they are now in commercial discussions with telecommunications companies to perform real service testing of Project Loon this year. Google previously announced its agreements with Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata to deliver internet access in Indonesia via Project Loon this year.
Google also entered a joint venture agreement with the government of Sri Lanka to provide high-speed internet service through the Project Loon. The Sri Lankan government agreed to acquire 25% stake in the joint-venture. The government is not investing capital, but it is allocating spectrum for the project. The tech giant is also expected to offer another 10% of the joint venture to the existing telephone service operators in the country.
According to Muhunthan Canagey, chief, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, one of the three balloons used by Google in the Project Loon trials already entered the country’s airspace on Monday.
“The First balloon was launched in South America and is currently over the southern region of Sri Lanka. Two other balloons will reach [the] country’s coastline by the end of the month. One is currently off the East Coast of South Africa and is expected next week while the other is expected in 12 days,” said Canagey.