Oh, the Huge Manatee! Google's US Loon Tests Renewed Into 2020
Google may have had its ups and downs with Project Loon -- a project to deliver low-cost wireless Internet from high-altitude balloons -- but the company is now cleared for take-off to carry on tests in Nevada until the middle of 2020
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just renewed Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s parent company -- Alphabet Inc. -- X R&D unit's license to test wireless connectivity up to 75,500 feet. The license covers a 100km (62 mile) area in Winnemucca, Nev. -- the base of operations for previous Loon tests in the US -- as well as unspecified areas in California, Idaho, and Utah.
The license runs until June 2020.
The license enables Google to test connections in the 70GHz to 80GHz range in the air. These are frequencies in the très fashionable millimeter wave band, which is also being floated (geddit?) for 5G services and fixed broadband in the US. (See Fixed Wireless Revival: Windstream Eyes New Multi-Megabit Markets in US.)
Google has previously said that it eventually wants Loon to deliver up deliver up to 10 Mbit/s to devices on the ground. Each balloon could provide connectivity over 4,000 sq km, or twice the area of an average tower, using high-frequency free-space optics to connect the balloon to backhaul on the ground, the company has said. (See Broadband Aloft Can Connect 1 Billion.)
Google originally asked for a license to test Loon for 24 months, starting in January 2016. Light Reading has asked the X team for any further details they can give us about the extended tests. We'll update the story if they get back with any juicy new details.
Oh yeah, we mentioned the ups and downs right? Google's balloons have crashed in Nevada, and been mistaken for a UFO in Columbia. Hey, nobody said moonshots were easy!
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading