Google’s balloon-based Internet access system is set to begin testing with end users across the South Asian island
Google is poised to begin trialling its “Project Loon” balloon-based Internet access network in Sri Lanka, where the Government has agreed to acquire a stake in the project, according to the company.
One of the three balloons to be used in the trials entered Sri Lanka’s airspace on Monday, after having been launched in South America, and a Google team is expected to arrive in the country this week to test flight controls and other technical aspects of the project, according to a Sri Lankan government representative.
Project Loon aims to introduce affordable Internet connectivity to remote areas, and Google has tested its balloons in regions such as the Australian outback and rural South America.
The trials in Sri Lanka, along with trials in Indonesia announced last year, represent a more advanced stage of the project, in which governments and access providers are taking an active role in testing the balloon-based service with end users, Google said.
Sri Lanka’s government is taking a 25 percent stake in the joint venture in exchange for access to the needed spectrum. Google is offering another 10 percent in the venture to the South Asian island’s telephone service providers.
Companies could use the system for delivering higher-speed, better quality access across the country, according to Google.
Sri Lanka has 3.3 million moble Internet connections and 630,000 fixed-line Internet subscribers amongst its population of more than 20 million, according to official figures. The country led South Asia in the introduction of mobile phones and 3G and 4G networks.
Google’s balloons fly twice as high as commercial airliners and have a lifespan of about 180 days, after which they can be recycled, according to the company.
At the TED conference this week Astro Teller, the head of the experimental X unit of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, showed several balloon models that Google experimented with before settling on a design that could be manufactured cheaply but still guided with precision. The balloon circumnavigated the Earth 19 times during a 187-day period last year, according to Teller.
The balloons can now provide access speeds of up to 15 megabits per second, enough to carry live video, Teller said.
He said Google is in talks with carriers around the world on expanding the trials.
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