project loon

Google is ready to begin trials for its Project Loon in Sri Lanka, as one of the three balloons to be used in the trials entered the Sri Lankan airspace on Monday, after having been launched from South America, reports WSJ. A Google team is expected to arrive in the country this week and test the project.

The report also mentions that last month the Sri Lankan government had agreed to acquire a 25% stake in the project. Over a dozen balloons are expected to be launched in the country to provide internet. The balloons will fly above commercial airline flight paths and have a lifespan of around 180 days. Google mentions that last year, its balloon travelled around the world 19 times over 187 days.

As of now, Google is in talks with various telecom operators around the world to provide internet using its balloons. Note that Loon started off with 30 balloons that were launched from New Zealand, and has expanded to other countries in the southern hemisphere. In fact, Google’s initial goal with the project is of “establishing a ring of uninterrupted connectivity at latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Project Loon is a network of balloons which float at about 20 kilometres above in the stratosphere which will help in providing Internet access to the most remote corners of the world. Google partners with telecom operators to share cellular network and enable people to connect to the balloon directly. The signal is then passed across the balloon network and back down to the global Internet on Earth.

Permit in India: Project Loon got an in-principle approval from the Indian government for running a pilot in India in December last year. The same month, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had expressed concern that Google’s Project Loon will interfere with existing telecom spectrum. The minister had also proposed a partnership with state-run telecom operator BSNL.

MediaNama’s take: We hope that the government can sort out issues regarding spectrum for the implementation of Project Loon. Telecom networks were hit badly in the recent floods in Chennai and operators are still trying to rebuild their operations. A service like Project Loon could help in communications at the time of disasters – man made or natural – and the balloons could be deployed to the affected areas.