While most people you know can't imagine their life without Wi-Fi, there are about two-thirds of the world's population that does not even have the opportunity to access the internet. Google's full-scale pilot program in India might change that - if they find a carrier partner.
You may have heard of internet search engine giant Google's Project Loon before. It's about setting up a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, approximately 20 km above the Earth's surface in the stratosphere, aiming to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill in coverage gaps and bring people back online after disasters.
As explained on Project Loon website, winds in the stratosphere are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction. Project uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, to have them rise or descend into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.
Established partnerships with various Telecommunications companies make it possible for the people to connect to the balloon network directly with phones and other LTE-enabled devices. The signal is then passed across the balloon network and back down to the global Internet on Earth.
Loon's balloon is made of polyethylene plastic, measuring fifteen meters wide by twelve meters tall. It's designed to last around 100 days in the stratosphere. When a balloon is ready to return to Earth, gas is released from the envelope and the balloon flies back home in a controlled descent. To ensure safety, a parachute is attached to the top of the envelope and deployed if needed.
Currently, Google is in talks with local Indian telecommunications companies such as BSNL as it appears that the pilot program will be launched in India, according to some reports. Google India chief Rajan Anandan stated in an exclusive interview for Indian daily Economic Times: "To me Loon works but at a simplistic level, it is infrastructure in the sky. And we'll partner with a local telco. Because the actual provisioning of the service is done by a local telco. So, we're talking to a number of local telcos. We can't do a Loon pilot without partnering with a local telco. We are talking to a number of them."
To learn more about the project, check the videos below.