According to Google’s official blog, the Internet giant has come to an arrangement with three of the biggest mobile operators in Indonesia, to bring Google’s balloon powered Internet to the next stage of development. The move will hopefully bring the web within reach of 100 million Indonesians who currently have either limited, or no access at all to the web.
Indonesia is perhaps the perfect environment for Google to put Project Loon through its paces. The Archipelago that makes up the nation has over 17,000 mountain and jungle covered individual islands. Large areas of Indonesia are also difficult to access due to poor transportation and infrastructure links. This makes it difficult to erect mobile phone towers that can communicate with each other. It also makes running fiber optic cable a difficult and expensive proposition.
Enter Project Loon:
Google unveiled it’s super pressure internet balloons back in 2013 when it tested the concept by launching over 20 of small balloons in New Zealand. While the original speed was limited to 3G speed, new kit and technological advances have been made that Google expects to offer speeds of around 10 megabits a second.
“Mike Cassidy, vice-president of Project Loon, told the BBC:
“In the early days, the balloons would last five or seven or 10 days. Now we have had balloons that have lasted as long as 187 days [and it] used to take 14 people an hour or two to launch a balloon, now with an automated crane we can launch a balloon every 15 minutes with two or three people.”
Using a balloon based system to convey Internet traffic isn’t without its own set of problems. The balloons don’t stay up on the air forever. Strong winds can blow them out of position. Air temperature is however, one of the major obstacles the technology had to overcome.
Part of the key needs for Project Loon is that the balloons have to stay at a relative altitude at all times. This is to ensure a line of sight connection with other Loon Internet balloons. While this was issue to begin with, Google says it has now remedied the issue.
The biggest advantage Project Loon has over satellite based Internet system is the comparative cheapness compared to satellites.
All around the world
One of Project Loon’s key aims is to build a continuous ring of balloons around the Earth by 2016. Mike Cassidy estimates that for this to happen they will need 300 balloons.