Published: Tue, October 10, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Loon Internet Balloons to Launch in Puerto Rico

Loon Internet Balloons to Launch in Puerto Rico

U.S. authorities have approved Alphabet Inc's application to use its experimental Project Loon balloons to provide emergency mobile phone service to disaster-stricken Puerto Rico, as Tesla said it would send more battery supplies. The FCC said that 83 percent of all cell sites remain out of service while wireless companies are rolling out temporary service sites.

Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc, started Project Loon, which was created to give internet connectivity to people in rural places and is now being used for disaster relief.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a special license on Friday to Alphabet's Project Loon.

The Loon balloons work by travelling 20 km into the stratosphere where the winds are stratified -each layer of wind varies in direction and speed.

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Loon works like floating cell towers.

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago, Reuters reported.

Engadget added that it needed to integrate with a telecommunications partner's network in the Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to let the balloons provide voice and data service to a user's phone.

In the case of Puerto Rico, Google would launch about 30 Loon balloons to help counteract the problem of the lack of connectivity to the internet network and cell phone service caused by Hurricane Maria.

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"In response to the recent flooding in Peru, Project Loon has been working together with Telefonica and the Peruvian Government to deliver basic internet connectivity to tens of thousands of people in affected areas around Lima, Chimbote, and Piura", Project Loon said in May.

Project Loon has emphasized the fact that it needs to work together with a wireless provider if it aims at restoring the cellular service in the country. Those will link to balloons flying almost 13 miles above the Earth, from which cell service will be broadcast down to the islands. The Alphabet's high-altitude balloon network has already been deployed and tested in some other parts of the globe.

The license will allow them to deliver emergency LTE cellular reception via helium balloon. Earlier today, Alphabet's X division was granted permission by the FCC to provide emergency LTE coverage to the island.

This is not Project Loon's first deployment outside the US. It's unclear if Puerto Rico's stressed telecom companies even have the resources to partner with Google on this endeavor.

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