ibusinesslines.com February 21, 2018

Loon Internet Balloons to Launch in Puerto Rico

09 October 2017, 06:26 | Jodi Jackson

Google's Project Loon uses balloons to send mobile phone signals to remote areas Credit Google via AFP

Google's Project Loon uses balloons to send mobile phone signals to remote areas
Google via AFP

Loon's deployment to the USA territories won't be the project's first rodeo; it has been tested over the years in multiple countries, including Brazil, New Zealand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and France, among others.

In lieu of recent events, Elon Musk, who had promised to showcase world's first battery-powered semi-truck on October 16, has postponed the launch event, and has ordered the company to divert all resources to restore power connectivity in Puerto Rico, where citizens have been deprived of electricity for nearly two weeks since the devastating hurricane decimated the country last month.

Project Loon easily provided communication services in Peru because it partnered with Telefónica.

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

According to the FCC, all 78 Puerto Rican counties are still affected [PDF] by communications service outages as of October 8 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

"This is the first time that balloon powered internet has connected tens of thousands of people", Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon, wrote on the project's blog.

The FCC, under special temporary authority, issued an emergency license for Loon to begin operation of up to 30 experimental units.

"Overall, 81.7 percent (virtually no change from 81.9 percent yesterday) of cell sites are out of service".

Of course, none of this would be possible without agents working from the ground, which makes the Puerto Rico situation all the more troublesome.

What is Project Loon and how could it work?

Its balloons float 20km high in the stratosphere.

Loon achieved some success in Peru after flooding damaged the country's terrestrial cell network.

Loon was started as a Google X Labs venture to bring mobile connectivity to rural and disaster areas via weather balloons equipped with cell radios. "To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone", the spokesperson explains.

"From our millions of kilometres of test flights we've been able to develop sophisticated models that allow us to more accurately predict the wind patterns at different altitudes". Each balloon has the capacity to serve 1,930 square miles or 5,000 square kilometers, effectively covering the entire island and some parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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