Monday, 17 November 2014 15:43

VIDEO: Google’s Bal-LOON-y trial gets QLD Telstra spectrum Featured


Google is extending trials of its broadband-by-balloon project entitled Project Loon, and while it has already previously conducted some tests off the coast of Queensland, it is partnering to trial 20 more balloons in Western Queensland in late December.

One of Google’s ‘Google X Moonshot’ projects is to deliver broadband Internet across planet Earth from balloons flying high in the stratosphere, twice has high as where planes - or presumably BUK missiles - are generally traversing.

Google started its not-so-loony project back in June 2013 to Australia’s East, in New Zealand, according to Google’s Project Loon site, where 30 balloons were launched and the Internet was ‘beamed’ to a select and very lucky group of pilot testers.

Now the project has expanded and is expanding to a greater number of people over a wider area, with the having pilot expanded throughout 2014 to now include Western Queensland by year’s end.

The audacious search engine ad company that provides email, storage, Office apps, hardware, software, wearable technology and so much more wants to make ‘a ring of uninterrupted connectivity around the 40th southern parallel’ a reality, so that ‘pilot testers at this latitude can receive continuous service via balloon-powered Internet.’

Google is doing this because ‘two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access’, and as it is designed ‘to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters’, it is an excellent way to deliver broadband Internet to people who don’t have it, can’t get it or need it when disaster strikes.

Loon balloons can rise or descend through the stratosphere as needed ‘into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel’, and all people need to connect is a ‘special Internet antenna attached to their building’.

Google explains this ‘signal bounces from this antenna up to the balloon network, and then down to the global Internet on Earth.’

A ground area of approximately 40km is diameter gets connectivity via LTE, with Google partnering with telcos such as Telstra, meaning people can ‘access the Internet everywhere directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices’.

A further explanation is that ‘balloons relay wireless traffic from cell phones and other devices back to the global Internet using high-speed links operating in the ISM 5.8 GHz band.’

A Telstra spokesperson told iTWire that: “We are excited to be working with Google on Project Loon. The trial will allow us to jointly test the potential of this technology for the Australian environment. As part of Telstra’s contribution to the trial we have supplied access to suitable spectrum.”

Telstra says that trials will commence in late December, and that it has been ‘working with the ACMA on securing spectrum’.

Google’s project leader for Loon, Mike Cassidy, told News Ltd that: “Google X is all about trying moonshot projects. These projects require a 10-times leap in technology that will address a billion people and there has to be some sort of clever solution to it. So when Google X came into existence, Loon was a perfect match.”

A video from Google explaining Project Loon is embedded below, while the Google+ page for Project Loon is here

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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