Google’s Project Loon Takes Flight


What if your internet was delivered not by satellite but by balloon? That’s the basis of an experiment Google is trying out with its Project Loon. Project Loon delivers internet service with the aid of high powered balloons that provide a network for islands and other places where the geography makes it hard to run fiber.

The Indian government just gave the company the go-ahead to run a trial there, and balloons are also drifting above New Zealand. Google says on its project website, that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population is without internet and balloons could help overcome some of the geographical challenges involved with getting the world online.

The balloons can provide access using 4G or LTE grade speeds where available.

CivSource has reported on a range of experimental technologies Google is trying out that would extend the reach of networks. TV White Space and millimeter wave technology are two of those options. TV White Space uses vacant TV channel signals to deliver data. TV signals already extend much further than broadband networks – especially in rural areas. Millimeter waves use the frequency spectrum from 30 GHz to 300 GHz, between microwave and infrared waves.

Like TV White Space, the frequency for millimeter waves doesn’t get much use – in part because the technology needed to use it used to be more expensive. Now that the tech is becoming more economical, millimeter waves might more viable. Their use has been floated as part of the delivery system for future 5G networks.

While a lot of the work on these technologies is being done abroad, the ideas should be on the radar of policymakers and providers here in the US as well. Rural areas or small municipalities could take advantage of these technologies once they mature as a means of providing or improving broadband access.