Google sister project Taara uses back-end laser communications tech from defunct Project Loon to bring broadband to rural India
Google sister project Taara is reportedly moving toward a larger-scale deployment of its laser-powered internet networking service in India, following trials there and in Africa.
The rollout is taking place under a deal between Taara and Bharti Airtel whose financial terms were not disclosed, Reuters reported.
Taara, part of an innovation lab called X that is operated by Google parent Alphabet, uses technology originally designed for the now-defunct Project Loon that aimed to deliver internet service via high-altitude balloons.
The lasers originally designed to establish data links between the balloons are now being used to create high-speed internet backbone links on the ground, according to Taara, which is named after the Estonian god of lightning.
Loon was shut down in early 2021 after Alphabet decided the technology could not be commercialised.
Later that year the Taara project said it had used the laser technology to create an internet link across the Congo River, linking Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The technology has to date been used in 13 countries, including Australia, Kenya and Fiji, Taara leader Mahesh Krishnaswamy told Reuters.
He said the group is working with Econet Group and its subsidiary Liquid Telecom in Africa, Bluetown in India and Digicel in the Pacific Islands. Financial terms were not disclosed.
X head Astro Teller said the reuse of the technology from Loon was an example of “moonshot composting”.
Teller said Taara was proving more viable than Loon and was “moving more data every single day than Loon did in its entire history”.
Krishnaswamy said he recently installed Taara equipment in Osur, a village in rural India near Chennai where he spent time as a child, and that the village would receive high-speed internet for the first time this summer.
Google in July 2020 committed $10 billion (£8bn) to digitising India and last year invested $700m for a 1.28 percent stake in Bharti Airtel.
Taara’s partnership with Bharti Airtel is separate from Google’s investment.
Some of Loon’s back-end technology was separately spun out into a group called Aalyria in September of last year, with the company aiming to offer back-end connection services for ground stations, aircraft, satellites, ships and urban meshes.
Alphabet retained a minority stake in Aalyria, which was also backed by J2 Ventures and several individual investors.