Google’s latest “moonshot” project is Project Loon, a phalanx of balloons that sail in the stratosphere like low level satellites. The objective is to bring broadband capability to less developed parts of the world, an ambition Google GOOG +1.35% is also pursuing through its White Spaces project.
They will be providing 3G speed downloads and user has to put up a dish to catch the signals from ongoing balloons over head question is will it be enough at the time when they are finally available for customers, Loon project is in it’s intial stages so it’s harder to say anything right now. But we are sure they thought of all that already after all it’s Google.
Google ran its first test on Saturday in New Zealand –here’s one report. It gave people 15 minutes of access before the balloons floated away.
However Loon takes us close to what Google is really about right now. Although Google has its “way-out” projects like Driverless Cars and Google Glass, those projects are adding nothing to the business. They create great press and clearly they have lifted the stock price, but Google is an ad company and autos and Glass will not add to that revenue stream. They might not provide alternatives for many years to come.
What does, and what will, is getting more people online with better connectivity, and controlling that process. In that sense Loon is really about the future of Google’s core business.
The Loon balloons are networked to each other with a radio transceiver, and are also in contact with the ground thanks to another. Each balloon has a third transceiver for backup purposes, and is tracked with on-board GPS. Each Loon balloon is powered via solar panels, which takes around four hours for a full charge, and extra energy is stored in a rechargeable battery.
The balloons also contain equipment to monitor the weather, as objects flying in the sky will surely bump into some less-than-desirable weather at some point, but the balloons have been built to withstand the conditions they will be facing.
Where once satellite internet was the only option, balloons could provide a cheaper, faster solution to large portions of the globe where it might never make sense to run fiber. Basically, Google is testing out an internet network built on the backs of balloons flying in the sky, ushering in an age of steampunk-like connectivity for people far off from city centers and otherwise lacking in high-speed internet access.
On a technical note Google says that winds in the stratosphere are slow and that’s what makes Loon feasible. The balloons will use solar power to move the communications equipment between layers of slow moving winds – I have only been able to find information that says they are highly variable and often very fast. So, there are some unknowns here. But Google is wrestling with how to be an infrastructure player, in order to bring more customers to its core business. Read more at Forbes
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We are hoping to see Google Loon doing something better packages then these virgin media broadband deals.