You’re reading this article now via whatever mode you have of using the Internet, whether you’re at home, the office, the library, a coffee shop, even while you’re on the go. But what if you’re not that lucky to have access? How would you get information?
Sure, we weren’t all connected just a few decades ago, but life as many of us know it is a completely connected life, and the fact is that it’s not available to everyone. For those people, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, under a separate company called Loon, has been launching balloons that fly overhead and are filled with … basically an Internet connection.
How Loon’s Internet Balloons Work
In some areas that are very remote or possibly rural, placing cell towers there isn’t very plausible. Assumably, because we know Google wants to be omnipotent and ever-present, they wanted to get the Internet to as many as people as possible, as more Internet means more business for them. They started developing the project in 2011 and have been rolling it out slowly since.
An Internet connection is transmitted from the ground to Loon’s balloons that fly about 12.5 miles overhead. A whole team of balloons share that signal and then beam it back down to cover a large area.
“It’s easiest to think of them as floating cell phone towers,” a Loon spokesperson told Digital Trends. “Loon works with mobile network operators to extend their networks to unconnected or under-connected communities.”
The balloons are sent into the sky through customized launchers. After being launched, they use the wind currents to get into the proper position. If a particular area needs to be connected, the balloons can navigate through the wind currents to find that area.
The spokesperson explains it this way: “As an example, during a test in 2016 we rode wind currents from our launch site in Puerto Rico on a testing site in Peru. Then we remained in the Peruvian airspace for 98 days. To accomplish that, the system made roughly 20,000 altitude adjustments.”
This worked so well that after Hurricane Maria that affected most of the island, the balloons were used to send emergency LTE coverage to Puerto Rico.
The newest region Loon is providing Internet to is Kenya. The plan is to have it in place sometime in 2019. The project is working alongside Telkom Kenya with the ultimate goal to provide service to the people living in areas that are rural and/or in the mountains, places that don’t have access to cell towers.
Telkom Kenya, as will all other networks that partner with Loon, will set the price for those using their Internet connectivity.
Loon claims their goal with Loon is to empower people to build businesses, improve health care, and even increase the yield of crops. And while it’s tempting to say their ultimate goal is probably to increase Google products’ reach, we also have to realize how they stepped up after Hurricane Maria affected Puerto Rico.
What do you think of Alphabet/Loon’s alternate way of providing the Internet to remote areas? Let us know what you think of this network of balloons in the comments section below.
Image Credit: “Project Loon: Scaling Up” Video