Google Makes Internet
February 17, 2017
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, says the company has made a
“breakthrough” on its plans to offer Internet access to rural areas via
connected balloons through an endeavor called Project Loon.
Initially, the idea was to have a steady stream of balloons circling the
globe. When one went out of range in a certain area, another would
arrive to maintain connectivity to those using the access provided by
But now, the company says that through its “smart software,” it has now
figured out a way to make the balloons loiter in one place over an
extended period of time.
“Project Loon’s algorithms can now send small teams of balloons to form
a cluster over a specific region where people need internet access,” the
company wrote in an online post. “This is a shift from our original
model for Loon in which we planned to create rings of balloons sailing
around the globe, and balloons would take turns moving through a region
to provide service.”
The company says the discovery was made during testing of balloons
launched from Puerto Rico to “hang out” in Peruvian airspace. Some of
the balloons lingered there for as long as three months, the company
The discovery should speed up the project and reduce costs.
“We’ll reduce the number of balloons we need and get greater value out
of each one,” the company said in the post. “All of this helps reduce
the costs of operating a Loon-powered network, which is good news for
the telco partners we’ll work with around the world to make Loon a
reality, and critical given that cost has been one key factor keeping
reliable internet from people living in rural and remote regions.”
The Project Loon idea was sparked as a way to bring internet
connectivity to the billions around the world who do not have access.
than install traditional and expensive terrestrial wiring, the idea was
to float huge, Internet-beaming balloons some 20 kilometers above the
surface of the Earth. The balloons would then ride air currents to
either remain in place or move to a new location.
Despite the breakthrough, Project Loon still must figure out how to
increase the longevity of the balloons, which has maxed out at 190 days,
according to the BBC.
Google has also explored the idea of providing internet to rural areas
using solar-powered drones, but cancelled the notion due to
technological hurdles and costs. Facebook is also looking to do
something similar, but one of its drones crashed last summer.