Print 9 comment(s) - last by SilthDraeth.. on Jun 20 at 12:24 PM

Google launches Wi-Fi hotspot balloons

Google has kicked off a new research project that involves launching balloons in New Zealand as part of a test of a new way to offer internet service to people on the ground. The balloons (constructed of thin polyethylene film) carry solar panels and equipment to provide wireless internet service while floating along 12 miles above the ground.

The goal of the program – which operates under the name “Project Loon” -- is to provide internet connectivity to nearly any location on Earth.
The test project in New Zealand is already providing 50 volunteer households with connectivity using the balloons.

While approximately 2.2 billion people around the world currently have internet access, there are 4.8 billion people who don't have access. While many of those without internet access may reside in remote parts of the world, there are many rural areas in the United States that have limited internet access.

If Google's program is successful, rather than running fiber-optic cables or installing expensive Wi-Fi equipment to provide internet to remote areas, balloons could do the job quicker and significantly cheaper.

"It's a huge moonshot, a really big goal to go after," said project leader Mike Cassidy. "The power of the internet is probably one of the most transformative technologies of our time."

Project Loon came out of Google X lab, which is also where the company’s autonomous vehicle technology was first devised.

Sources: SFGate, Google

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Needs work
By cyberguyz on 6/19/2013 9:43:53 AM , Rating: 2
That balloon may have enough wattage to send a signal to the ground from 12 miles up, but how are they gonna get a signal from the ground back up to that balloon without some pretty costly transmitting equipment? I suppose they could use LTE-like signalling, but bandwidth out at the fringes of that balloon's reach will suck hard. Then there's the part where balloons will move around depending on the air currents. All that is needed is a good typhoon coming off of the south pacific to scuttle that pretty quick

RE: Needs work
By RjBass on 6/19/2013 1:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
I admit I don't know the first thing about high altitude atmospheric conditions, but from what I was reading on the Loom website, the balloons altitude can be raised and lowered to catch specific upper atmosphere cross winds and thus keep the balloons within a set area. A typhoon is a surface weather condition that has almost no effect on upper atmospheric conditions (or so I have thought for years) and thus would have no effect on the balloons trajectory.

RE: Needs work
By PrinceGaz on 6/19/2013 2:05:48 PM , Rating: 2
He asked, how is the end-user going to be able to transmit a signal powerful enough to be received by the balloon.

Your average wifi router will be lucky to go over two or three hundred meters outdoors, so how do customers connect to it?

The customers will need specialised equipment for the required transmission range of upwards of 10km, which is presumably why it is a small scale test with only a few dozen people involved.

RE: Needs work
By brandonicus on 6/20/2013 9:37:00 AM , Rating: 2
That problem is addressed in the video. Google has specialized ground stations to receive the signal from the balloon. They mention the location housing the ground station would act as the area's ISP (probably delivering the signal to the end user via traditional copper lines). They also show a ground station attached to a normal house (footprint looks pretty small, like a tiny radome).

No way Jose
By BRB29 on 6/19/13, Rating: 0
RE: No way Jose
By StevoLincolnite on 6/19/2013 9:32:47 AM , Rating: 2
It's New Zealand, not the United States.
The NSA has no jurisdiction there and New Zealand ain't afraid to tell the USA what it thinks either. :P

RE: No way Jose
By Schadenfroh on 6/19/2013 9:49:52 AM , Rating: 2
By Ammohunt on 6/19/2013 11:51:04 AM , Rating: 2
This is the best and brightest that Google has to offer? I applaud them for thinking out of the box but this is just a dumb idea. In order to take advantage of this assumes a power source so why not use a mess network protocol? Hell with a cantenna(<$10) you can do shots of up 20 miles with regular wireless networking equipment. Much cheaper and way less complex and problematic then this idea.

RE: Wow
By SilthDraeth on 6/20/2013 12:24:48 PM , Rating: 2
I remembering reading an article with thepiratebay stated they would do the same thing, or something very similar. Pretty sure google just pirated the bay!

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