1. Economy
February 22, 2016

Google (aka Alphabet) is launching its wi-fi balloons this year

By Barbara Speed

To some, “Project Loon” seemed a very apt name for Google’s plan to deploy wi-fi to rural and remote areas of the world via helium balloon.

But to the haters, Google (now officially known as Alphabet), brings this news: it’s going to trial the specially designed Wi-Fi balloons in Indonesia later this year. That’s right, folks. Wi-Fi balloons, in 2016. 

Granted, the project has taken three years to get off the ground. It’s been brewing in Google’s “X Innovation lab” under the watchful eye of Astro Teller, who has written a Medium piece about how tricky it is to get innovations like this to market.

In it, he calls Project Loon “the craziest sounding project we have” and describes how the team tried every size and shape of balloon under the sun until they arrived at this one, which they managed to navigate on 19 round-world trips over 187 days last year:

Image: Google.

The Wi-Fi on the balloon is able to deliver speeds of up to 15 megabits per second, which means it would be fast enough to stream video.

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Teller writes:

Today our balloons are doing pretty much everything we’d need a complete system to do. We’re now in commercial discussions with [telecoms companies] around the world and we’ll be flying over places like Indonesia for real service testing this year. 

Onwards and upwards.


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