Google Claims Progress On Balloon Internet Plan

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Project Loon

The search engine has said it expects to have a ‘semi-permanent’ ring of Internet access balloons in place within a year

Google has said it expects to have a ring of Internet-access balloons in place around the Southern Hemisphere within a year.

Astro Teller, head of the Google X lab, which carries out Google’s research into areas such as self-driving automobiles, said the company has made progress on its Project Loon effort to use high-altitude balloons to provide access to billions of people.

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Getting connected

“In the next year or so we should have a semi-permanent ring of balloons somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said at the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference this week.

Google unveiled the project in June of last year, and has tested the balloons in the US, New Zealand and Brazil. The solar-powered balloons fly at 60,000 feet and can remain aloft for as long as 100 days. Google hasn’t disclosed who makes the equipment it is using.

Teller said the Loon Balloons have now logged more than two million flight kilometres.

The balloons provide access using LTE technology, and Google has said the resulting connection operates at up to 22 megabits per second for a fixed antenna, or 5 mbps to mobile handsets. Google works with local mobile operators to share their spectrum.

Teller said that while the company faces practical hurdles in getting the system in place, if Project Loon is successful at connecting billions to the Internet “that’s very valuable”.

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