Project Loon-Powered Internet Reaches 100K in Puerto Rico


Alphabet, Google's parent company, launched Project Loon in America last month after the FCC granted the company an experimental license in light of Hurricane Maria, which swept Puerto Rico and left the island in "survival mode" for the past seven weeks.

In late October, Project Loon began transmitting internet to Puerto Rico by way of giant balloons.

Balloons were launched from Nevada, using advanced algorithms to direct them to the intended targets.

Power line poles downed by the passing of Hurricane Maria lie on a street in San Juan, Puerto Rico on November 7, 2017. This doesn't mean to say Project Loon has been a total success, as outlined below.

In this deployment, Loon is only providing "basic internet communication" like SMS, text, email, and other basic web access, but no voice service.

Loon balloons have flown more than 26 million kms around the world, Alphabet said.

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Following the Category 4 hurricane in September, Alphabet's X team looked into whether Project Loon could be used to provide service as it previously did in a flood-stricken Peru. "We hope that the connectivity Project Loon has provided over the last few weeks has been helpful, and would like to thank AT&T, T-Mobile, and our government partners who made these efforts possible". Facebook, Tesla, and Cisco had promised to support the people during the disaster.

The balloons travel approximately 12 miles (20km) above the Earth's surface in the stratosphere. It uses high altitude balloons which sail for around 20 kilometres.

The balloons are solar powered and have batteries on board, but service at night is limited.

The technology developed by Alphabet brings internet connectivity via balloons that hover above areas in need.

Project Loon is partnering with telecommunications companies and mobile networks to share cellular spectrum.

The signals can then hop forward, from one balloon to the next, along a backbone of up to five balloons.