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Google to test balloon-powered Internet in Indonesia

Posted: 30 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:balloon? Internet? LTE? service providers? solar power?

Google will test its balloon-powered Internet in Indonesia starting next year, according to the company's official blog. The project aims to provide high-speed LTE Internet connection to 100 million Indonesians across the country's more than 17,000 islands.

The U.S. tech giant said that only about one in three of Indonesia's 250 million residents are connected to the web and most of their connections are "painfully slow." In addition, running fibre optic cable and installing mobile phone towers are a constant challenge across the archipelago.

Google's solution is Project Loon, a network of balloons that float about 20km above the Earth's surface. According to the project's website, it is "designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters."

The solar-powered project works by ground stations connecting to the local Internet infrastructure. They will then send signals across the balloon network, which will return the signals back down to the global Internet on Earth. Users below use antennae attached to their homes to send and receive data signals from the balloons floating above.

Project Loon

Project Loon balloons travel approximately 20km above the Earth's surface in the stratosphere. (Source: Google)

"We hope this could help local operators extend the coverage of their existing networks, and reach further into rural and remote areas," Project Loon Vice President Mike Cassidy said.

Google partnered with three Indonesian Internet service providers, namely Indosat, Telkomsel and XL Axiata.

"The Internet is still out of reach for too many people, but we're making progress," said Cassidy. "If all goes well, soon many more millions of people in Indonesia will be able to bring their ideas, culture and businesses online. At that point, the sky's the limit."

Project Loon, which began in June 2013, was previously tested in New Zealand, United States and Brazil, but the one in Indonesia is the project's biggest challenge so far.

Watch the video below to see the test done in New Zealand.

Google is not the only company working on technologies that will bring Internet to remote parts of the world. Facebook is developing solar-powered drones that can stay in the air for three months, but the company has yet to deliver on its promise.

- Stephen Padilla

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