When I read the most recent news from Google I had to check my calendar — sure enough it is not April 1st. However, what the search giant announced sounds fantastical. What more can you say about getting internet from a high altitude balloon? Well, that is the dream the company has announced.
“But for 2 out of every 3 people on earth, a fast, affordable Internet connection is still out of reach. And this is far from being a solved problem”.
Google talks of the serious challenges facing the internet connectivity for large portions of the world. The company aims to solve this with high-altitude balloons in stratospheric orbit. “Solving these problems isn’t simply a question of time: it requires looking at the problem of access from new angles. So today we’re unveiling our latest moonshot from Google[x]: balloon-powered Internet access”.
The company thinks it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below.
“It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters. The idea may sound a bit crazy—and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon—but there’s solid science behind it”.
This week Google started a pilot program in the Canterbury area of New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect to the balloons. This is the first time Google has launched this many balloons (30 this week, in fact) and tried to connect to this many receivers on the ground, and promises to learn a lot that will help the company improve its technology and balloon design.