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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