Google's Internet Balloon Project Takes Flight

Google's 4G LTE "Project Loon" balloon scheme is going into orbit above Indonesia to test to see if the search giant can provide Internet connectivity from the skies for one of the most underserved countries in the world.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) says it will launch 3,000 balloons that will form a ring around the world and hopefully provide Indonesia with 4G data connections from the sky. Google is working with three regional service providers -- Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata -- to bring the service to 100 million Indonesians over the next two years. Indonesia is a nation made up of over 17,000 islands with tough-to-wire terrain like mountains and jungles.

"These tests with Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata are an important step toward bringing all of Indonesia online, and a key milestone for the Loon team as we continue to test, learn and expand the project," Google notes on its blog. (See Google Ready to Release Thousands of Loons .)

Want to know more about platforms for the Internet of Things? Check out our dedicated drone channel here on Light Reading.

Google has been looking into Internet connectivity via balloon since at least 2008. The Project Loon balloons are free-floating weather sky balloons that will orbit more than 12 miles above the earth. Google launched a pilot program -- and 30 balloons -- to test the technology in New Zealand in 2013 and has run tests in Brazil. Sri Lanka is also considering using the system for Internet connectivity.

Deep-pocketed Google is exploring three ways of delivering Internet from the sky: balloons, high-altitude solar drones and micro satellites. It is not alone in this new space race: Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Facebook and Samsung Corp. are all exploring orbital or near-earth options too. (See Forget the Internet, Brace for Skynet and The New Internet Space Race: Google's Final Frontier?)

With the Indonesian agreement, Project Loon may establish Google as the front-runner in the race to deliver Internet from above to the world's underserved populations.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

Joe Stanganelli 12/1/2015 | 8:11:24 AM
Re: Air traffic At least the balloons are more predictable than enthusiast drones.
Joe Stanganelli 12/1/2015 | 8:10:38 AM
Re: Noteworthy Perhaps, but also remember that Rome wasn't built in a day.  One thing at a time.  :)
Kruz 11/29/2015 | 1:20:24 PM
How Through which business model is Google operating this project with operators? Shouldnt these be concerned if Google were to start providing connectivity?
Kruz 11/29/2015 | 1:07:14 PM
Re: Air traffic It seems security concerns didnt go unnoticed as the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology(Indonesia) has asked government to takes security aspects of the project into consideration.
MikeP688 11/29/2015 | 3:53:43 AM
Re: Air traffic I have a sneaking suspisicion that they'd thought this thru--this is just like the drones that is starting to hit us big time as well.    We can't stop progress--all we can do is to manage it. 
MikeP688 11/29/2015 | 3:52:49 AM
Re: Noteworthy Facebook's initiative, https://info.internet.org/en/, seems to be making headway although I had seen reporting that it was being "scaled back".    It is gratifying to see how at least attempts are being made as they are.    I would be keen to see, though, what Google is doing with Google Fiber beyond the test markets.     It has arrived in Orange COunty, my home County.
t.bogataj 11/5/2015 | 3:03:01 AM
Air traffic Is anybody concerned with air-traffic safety? Is this issue being addressed at all?

Having 3000 baloons hovering in the air all around Indonesia doesn't make me feel very good to fly there...

danielcawrey 11/2/2015 | 9:20:56 PM
Re: Noteworthy I like this idea, by I also wonder about the quality of the internet provided. 

Is this going to enable internet speeds that will support video? Social media? Cloud applications. If Google wants this to be successful, that's the benchmarkt it will need to achieve in order for this to be worthwhile for the company. 
Joe Stanganelli 10/31/2015 | 5:07:28 AM
Noteworthy A noteworthy project to be sure...but probably not that helpful for anything more than providing basic Internet access (for instance, IoT) because of the expense.

Isn't Facebook working on something similar?
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