A year after it sent up its very first Wi-fi balloons in New Zealand, Google now has flown its very first LTE-equipped balloons in a small town in Brazil.
Project Loon has been a bit overshadowed lately by Google’s plans to possibly launch several satellites in orbit. But Project Loon – whose goal is to deliver broadband Internet access to underserved areas – is making good progress.
Google, which also recently created its new Google My Business Tool, announced earlier this week that it had sent up an LTE-equipped balloon near Camp Maior in northeast Brazil. This balloon provided an Internet connection to a local school for the first time ever.
That town does not have any type of broadband or mobile service yet. This means that local residents can only find a weak mobile signal now and then, and often by climbing up trees or on soccer goalposts.
Adding LTE to Google’s balloons has a number of advantages. 4G LTE usually provides higher speed mobile access, but in Loon’s case, it has another purpose: It could let Google provide a wireless signal straight to mobile phones, and also deliver services over much further distances than with Wi-fi.
Another advantage of LTE is that mobile carriers already utilize it on their networks. It means that when Loon eventually partners with telecommunication firms to provide last mile Internet connectivity, Google will be able to use that existing infrastructure. This will let the company deliver Internet services more seamlessly.
With the trial Loon balloon in Brazil, Google collaborated with two local companies – Vivo and Telebras. This allowed those companies to extend the range of their 4G and backhaul networks.
Google noted that its intent since it launched the initial balloons is to locate partners. It also said that the launch in New Zealand was supported by Vodafone.
Before the project got off the ground J, the Loon team had planned to buy spectrum for itself. However, Google CEO Larry Page nixed the idea, because of fears that Google was invading the country where it was launching the balloons.
The balloons seem to have made many advances in the last year. They now can stay up in the air for as much as 75 days! Google also is thinking about using Project Loon balloons for profit – the devices could fill in some of the coverage gaps in the US, and might be able to boost the roaming range of the big wireless carriers.