When we checked in with Project Loon last, a deal had been signed between Sri Lanka’s government and Google “for local telecommunication companies to enable a connection to the balloon network. [Google’s plan was to use] their solar panel-powered balloons to float in the stratosphere and send down internet connectivity. Although this is a country of over 22 million –only about 1 in five people have access to the internet.” Now, nearing two months later, liftoff is in sight for Project Loon.
Google has reported that it has almost perfected its technology. They believe that it is now time to scale the technology in Africa to connect the people to rest of the world via the internet. They will be announcing their first operator partners in Africa soon.
The plan has always been worldwide internet for everyone. Moving beyond Africa, Google has their sites still on rural locations in Sri Lanka, India, and even rural parts of the U.S. The reach of their goals is limitless.
Wael Fakharany, regional business lead for Google X, also said that as they enter 2016, “it’s all about marketing this as fast as possible not only in rural Africa, but rural India, parts of the U.S. — this technology has to work as fast as possible, to reach as many people as possible.”
Of course moving from a trial into a commercial release has further issues to overcome since it requires access to spectrum and customers. To overcome this, Google wants to partner with operators in the countries it has ambitions to cover who already have experience in the local market and access to the assets which Google will require.
This means that Google will provide the infrastructure, but operators will control the distribution and marketing as usual. Mobile World Live quotes Fakharany as saying “The customer relationship is with the telcos, we are just the infrastructure provider.”
In addition to the balloons, Google has registered two drone patents with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The new drone concepts are part of something called Project Titan. Supposedly, Project Titan will be used for internet access and surveying, instead of delivery. These drones, according to sources in Google, are said to be expansions upon Project Loon. The main function of the drones is to be internet connectivity and data harvesting –this is specifically in relation to the deforestation of the planet.
This should be an interesting project, when all is said and done. The technology of the balloons and drones, paired with the data collected, should prove very valuable. We’re looking forward to takeoff. What’s your take on all of this? Do you think that Project Loon is going to see success? What about “expansions” like Project Titan? Comment with your thoughts below.