Balloon-powered Internet

Many of us believe that the Internet is a global community, but the truth is, around two-thirds of the world's population have no access to it. Multinational technology company Google has been working since 2008 to solve this connectivity issue. Their solution to the problem: Project Loon.

Project Loon is research and development that uses a network of balloons sent to the edge of space, designed to provide Internet access to rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps and ultimately keep people connected even after disasters strike.

The balloons float to the stratosphere, twice as high as where airplanes fly, so as not to interfere with their transmissions.

These balloons are designed to rise and descend into a specific layer of wind blowing in the desired direction in order to go where they need to be.

By partnering with telcos from all over the world and utilising their satellites, the project allows people to be connected to the balloon's network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices.

The signal is passed across the balloon network and back down to antennas on earth.

Project Loon began multiple tests in 2013 in New Zealand, where 30 balloons were launched into the stratosphere. The tests have been expanded to include a wider range of people over a wider area.

Since last month, Google has been partnering Indonesia's telcos XL Axiata, Indosat and Telkomsel to bring this technology to Indonesia, where it will attempt to connect the nation's 17,000-island archipelago - the biggest challenge so far for the project.

The signal is beamed to antennas on the ground at 10 megabits per second (3G speed), providing Internet connection to previously-inaccessible places.

This article was first published on Nov 11, 2015.
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