Google parent company Alphabet is partnering with three of Indonesia’s largest telecoms for a large-scale test of Project Loon, one of several moonshot projects from Google X (which, by the way, is being renamed to “X”).
Project Loon has been trialed in Australia, Brazil and New Zealand although this will be the first test with multiple telecoms simultaneously. Alphabet said this time around, it plans to dispatch hundreds of balloons 12 miles high over the island nation.
Indonesia is seemingly an excellent candidate for Project Loon testing. It is the fourth most populated country in the world yet only one in three residents have access to the Internet.
As The Wall Street Journal notes, the country is made up of more than 17,000 islands loaded with rugged terrain that makes installing traditional cell towers and laying fiber optic cable quite the challenge.
Project Loon is expected to deliver wireless speeds of up to 10Mbps. That’s not blazing fast by enthusiast levels but it’s certainly better than no connection at all. For all of the promise, however, the project is still a huge undertaking that faces a number of obstacles.
For example, we don’t yet know exactly how reliable the array of Internet-beaming balloons will be. Earlier tests have seen balloons float off course that required retrieval from a special team. What’s more, Alphabet will have to price the service at a rate that’s affordable to locals. As the publication notes, the typical wireless user in Indonesia pays just $3 a month for service.
Trials are expected to start sometime next year.