Last week Google announced that, so far, the Loon project’s experimental balloons sent into the stratosphere in an attempt to bring internet access to everyone, everywhere in the world, had traveled over 3 million kilometers. Nice milestone, but what’s next?
Google’s announcement is a good occasion for us to give you a quick and we hope concise update on this ambitious project that, alongside with Facebook’s internet.org, wants to connect the world.
On top of announcing that their balloons travelled in total 3 million kilometers in the stratosphere, Google also mentioned that most of their flying devices stayed in the stratosphere for over 100 days. This is a major improvement if we consider that back in 2013, when the project was first initiated, the “life expectancy” of the first test balloons was ten times lower. When we consider that one of the key factors for Project Loon’s success is the dual ability of the balloons to both stay andwork in the stratosphere for extended periods of time, the importance of this breakthrough becomes clear Indeed, the lower the replacement rate for balloons , the lower Google’s operating costs will be. More importantly, the risk of connection loss will diminish, and it goes without saying that for a project that aims to bring Internet to everyone in the world no matter where they are located, connection loss is troublesome.
The progress that Project Loon teams are making is impressive. So far, according to Google X (the Google division in charge of innovative projects such as Loon, self-driving cars, Google Link etc.), they are able to release as many as 20 balloons a day into the stratosphere. All this data seems encouraging. However, Google has not mentioned how many balloons they would need in total in the stratosphere to provide Internet coverage worldwide. For this reason it is hard for us to determine how close Project Loon is to achieving their goal.
To conclude this little update, we also have to mention the agreement signed by Google with Telstra, Australia’s number one mobile phone carrier. Such a partnership proves that Google is well on it’s way with it’s project, and probably further down the path than Internet.org as far as flying devices are concerned. Furthermore, it demonstrates that in order for Google to monitor their balloons and provide a relay for their signals, Google will require the help of local players such as major national mobile phone carriers.
However, even if giant leaps are made, Project Loon as well as Internet.org are still in the early stages; their material and infrastructure requirements suggest that they will not be operational for several years to come.
Better than nothing you say?
Maybe. But, in the meantime, some light and simple solutions are already up and working to maintain mobile Internet connections no matter the network. Network agnostic, they are complementary to 3 or 4G and take over when those data networks are down, saturated or simply unavailable. Available in application form on Android, they are worth a try too….