Google plans to provide worldwide internet coverage, via a network of floating balloons

By on June 17, 2013, 9:30 AM
google, internet, broadband, project loon, internet access

The mysterious Google X lab is at it again, and this time they are unleashing a top-secret internet service that goes by the code-name “Project Loon”. Google's plan is to eventually launch thousands of internet-beaming transmitters into the stratosphere, carried afloat an extensive network of hot air balloons.

According to the Associated Press, the balloons will be made of a thin polyethylene film that is approximately 50 feet (15 meters) in diameter. Drifting through the air at an altitude of 12 miles (20 km), the wireless antennas will hopefully bring internet access to some of the most remote areas of the planet. At the present day, only ~2.2 billion people are online, while the remaining ~4.8 billion do not have access to standard broadband. If this works, Project Loon will greatly expand internet coverage across Africa and Southeast Asia.

Mike Cassidy, the project’s leader, added, “It’s a huge moonshot, a really big goal to go after. The power of the internet is probably one of the most transformative technologies of our time.”

To provide power to the balloon’s radio and flight equipment, each unit will be equipped with solar panels. On the home front, users will attach large antennas to their houses to receive the signal; antennas which currently resemble giant red pins, not unlike those seen on the popular Google Maps interface.

Charles Nimmo, a farmer from the small town of Leeston, was the first person to successfully receive internet via Project Loon, albeit for a short 15 minute period. Up to 50 other households have also volunteered to be preliminary test subjects, and they will briefly receive internet in the coming weeks as the balloons pass overhead.

Nevertheless, Google’s project is still in the early testing stage. There is currently no word on how much they have invested in the system, or what the expected cost is for customers.

Balloon image via Jon Shenk of the Associated Press




User Comments: 11

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MilwaukeeMike said:

So Bill Gates thinks those in rural Africa need clean drinking water and vaccinations, while Google is working on broadband. Hopefully electricity and a tablet come from those balloons too, so they'll be able to use the internet.

SexyMan SexyMan said:

The article did not mention if it is free... is it?

For the specs (speed and latency), I know it is still in early testing but I am expecting around >50ms latency (basing from a performance of LTE or 12 miles apart wifi) and with a speed that can at least stream a YouTube.

Guest said:

"Internet" usage is more than facebook and reading techspot. There are several Organizations like WFP, Red Cross, etc wich have hundreds of sites on Africa and they have to spend Millions in Satellital internet access.

What about Telemedicine? Live information about weather, earthquakes, etc? Telephone system (IP)?

And.. Facebook (Google+)

1 person liked this | 415WhoCares 415WhoCares said:

Another Big Brother tactic, that they will sell off to the government.

2 people like this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

In this economy we know that any bubble bursts sooner or later. Let's see for how long these ones will last...

It usually takes just one stupid bird...

MilwaukeeMike said:

"Internet" usage is more than facebook and reading techspot. There are several Organizations like WFP, Red Cross, etc wich have hundreds of sites on Africa and they have to spend Millions in Satellital internet access.

What about Telemedicine? Live information about weather, earthquakes, etc? Telephone system (IP)?

And.. Facebook (Google+)

Good point. and if Google is spending some time and money on solving a real problem I should probably stop ripping on them.

Tygerstrike said:

The problem I see is that we can not predict the weather accurately enough to have these ballons out there. They couldnt be free floating. Given the weather patterns, a ballon launched in Canada could end up in South Africa. Where the idea is cost effective, the temptous nature of the weather slams the lid down on this idea. Now maybe BroadBand sattelite service made cheaper, now theres a idea that might work.

learninmypc learninmypc said:

IF everybody would read the/watch the news, I see the word "experimental" in describing it.

Right now, Google is experimenting with the idea. It is not a done deal.

Outlaw88 said:

I wonder how many will be shot down by paranoid leaders thinking someone is spying on them.

treetops treetops said:

I am sure children living in dump heaps going through trash to recycle for their next meal will greatly appreciate this. Then again maybe this can pave the way for a robotic army to feed the poor and eventually kill all humans .

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