Google's Project Loon Nearly Ready to Launch

Unique way of providing broadband to remote areas holds promise

Universal Broadband
Universal Broadband.

As universal broadband deployment remains an important policy goal for government, telecommunication providers continue exploring innovative ways to provide service to remote areas.  While Google has been receiving a lot of attention for its gigabit fiber deployments in select U.S. cities, the company has also been exploring unique and innovative ways to provide access to the Internet.

Google's Project Loon is a research and development initiative developed specifically for delivery of broadband service in rural areas of the world.

  Google is using high-altitude balloons to transmit a wireless signal to deliver broadband at speeds approaching the limits of current mobile wireless technology.

This is how Google describes the technology:

"Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. They are carried around the Earth by winds and they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth."

As Google experimented with manufacturing balloons and launching them in select locations, their strategy evolved to include telecommunication providers and government partners.

By partnering with Telecommunications companies to share cellular spectrum we’ve enabled people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. The signal is then passed across the balloon network and back down to the global Internet on Earth.

According to a recent video posted by Google, Project Loon allows cell phone companies and Internet companies to provide Internet to communities that don't have it," effectively stating that Google will provide the means by which existing broadband providers will be able to expand existing service to extremely remote areas.

  This strategy is very similar to the concept behind Google fiber networks, and the open-network concept of deployment.

While many of the details are yet to be shared by the company, Michael Cassidy, the project engineer for the project, was optimistic that Project Loon would provide a way to provide broadband access in hard to reach areas:

"Anyone with a smartphone anywhere in the world will be able to get Internet access,We're getting close to the point when we can bring the Internet to people around the world."

The technology and balloons are being tested in Australia, Latin America, and New Zealand, with partnerships with different providers in each country. While most of the trials are being conducted outside of the Unites States, Google conducted field tests in California's Central Valley, which is close to the company's headquarters in Mountain View. 

Benefits of Broadband: Why is broadband access so important?

Over the last few years, wireless broadband has been the topic of new and innovative technologies.  White space has continued to evolve as a potential technology for delivering broadband to rural areas. 

White Space for Broadband: FCC Order Provides More Spectrum for Broadband

We will continue to see new technologies and ways of delivering broadband as we become further dependent on transmitting large amounts of data from any location in the world.  Even as we continue to deploy high-speed wireline broadband such as fiber and cable, our increasing dependency on being connected to multiple devices and remote locations will drive mobile broadband delivery models.

Google has embraced its role as a "nudge" competitor as well as a facilitator of broadband in the United States.  The company has facilitated greater use of broadband networks by other carriers, while also vastly increasing access in many cities across the country.

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Salway, David. "Google's Project Loon Nearly Ready to Launch." ThoughtCo, Apr. 30, 2016, thoughtco.com/googles-project-loon-nearly-ready-to-launch-437060. Salway, David. (2016, April 30). Google's Project Loon Nearly Ready to Launch. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/googles-project-loon-nearly-ready-to-launch-437060 Salway, David. "Google's Project Loon Nearly Ready to Launch." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/googles-project-loon-nearly-ready-to-launch-437060 (accessed November 20, 2017).