Google reveals "balloon-powered internet"

So what is Google’s latest reveal? Balloon-powered internet. Their latest brainchild, dubbed Project Loon, is set to bring internet access to millions of people across the globe, particularly those who do not currently benefit from cabled connectivity.

The way the project works is that a number of balloons are sent up into the stratosphere, at which point they can rise or lower in altitude to allow steering through wind direction. Whilst up there, the “loons” will be able to receive and transfer internet signals across to each other, creating a network of access in those hard-to-reach places.

Google’s

official blog states that “there are many terrestrial challenges to Internet connectivity – jungles, archipelagos, mountains. There are also major cost challenges. Right now, for example, in most of the countries in the southern hemisphere, the cost of an Internet connection is more than a month’s income.”

Project Loon started this month and begins as an experimental pilot in New Zealand. The “Project Loon pioneers” are set to test the new system in both Christchurch and Canterbury. 30 balloons have already been released this week.

Google writes: “We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below.”

So far, each balloon can provide internet access to an approximate ground area of 40km, at speeds similar to that of a 3G cellular network.

If successful, Google’s next step is to set up pilot tests in other countries residing at the same latitude as New Zealand, with the end goal to be providing internet for even the most remote villages in sub-Saharan Africa, which are not currently connected.

“The difference between no internet and a little bit of internet is massive in terms of potential for innovation,” says Richard DeVaul, a Google product evaluator.

You can read more about the project at the Loon homepage.

This is obviously a very exciting prospect for those who do not yet have stable internet connections around the globe. How do you feel about Google’s new project? A noble prize nominee, or has April Fools come early? Let us know in the comments.

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