Google Gets Approval to Use Project Loon in Puerto Rico
The Internet has become a basic human right for the most of us. We build our lives and our businesses using this magical formation of networks. Yet, more than half of the world is deprived of the Internet, which means they are deprived of modern technology required to connect, to communicate and to share information.
According to a latest UN report 1.5 billion more people use the internet today than in 2010, but 52% of the world’s population still lacks access. Of people without internet, 62% live in Asia and the Pacific Islands, and 18% in Africa.
Why does this matter? Because it implies an important fact that the poorest nations continue to be disconnected from a technologically advanced world, thus preventing them from gaining the ability to excel. So what do we do in this case? Should these countries wait for the arrival, installation, and setup of expensive broadband solutions or should they get some sort of connectivity options? Well, Google, the company that redefined the Internet aims to help bridge the communication gap. Let us introduce you to Project Loon.
What is Project Loon?
Developed by X (formerly Google X), Project Loon is an attempt to provide Internet access to rural and remote areas. How does it do that? It makes use of high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere that will give everyone on ground free connectivity. The connectivity comes from regional telecom systems that provide 4G LTE signals to the balloons which then communicates with other balloons to form a mesh-like network in constant motion. One balloon can relay the signal to a ground area many miles in diameter and can produce download speeds of up to 10MBPS. The setup is not only beneficial for remote areas but also for areas affected by natural disasters causing disconnection of telecom and Internet services. Since the balloons are designed to adjust to different atmospheric conditions, it can survive in harsh environments and still be able to produce 4G LTE signals.
Project Loon Benefits Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s communication systems, so much so that residents still have no access to the Internet. Cut off from the world, they have no way to call for help, to post actual information. Communications remain unavailable on the island with nearly 83% of all cell sites being out of service. Google stepped in and proposed to provide emergency cell phone services to Puerto Rico using the Project Loon balloons. Their application was approved by the US Federal Communications Commission and the company is now gearing up for providing emergency telecommunication services to parts of the island. The Project Loon balloons will act as replacements for the island’s destroyed cell towers, but at the moment can only transmit data. Alphabet (formerly Google) has yet to confirm deployment time as they prepare for the operation. Along with Google, other tech companies as Tesla also participated in sending hundreds of batteries to store power generated by solar panels. All of this is being done as part of a Hurricane Recovery Task Force designed to restore communications as the region begins its long way recovery.