Google’s Project Loon Bringing Balloon Powered Affordable Internet To India By 2016
Google started Project Loon more than 2 years back, and lot of work has gone into it since it was announced in June 2013. Now, this powered-by-balloons internet may be available to Indians by 2016. Google is already said to be in talks with Indian Government to bring Project Loon and their Kite-powered wind energy into the country according to a ToI report.
Mohammad Gawdat, VP of business Innovation at Google X, and arm that is developing Project Loon, told ToI, “By 2016, we believe we can start to launch a commercial format that allows us to have coverage on every square inch of planet Earth. We are working very closely with telecom providers and governments across the world including India to see how we bring this innovation here”
Project Loon, if you are not aware, is a completely different take on creating a network that can provide affordable internet to billions of people across the globe. The network is essentially set of balloons that are suspended 20 kms above earth’s surface, in stratosphere, and move with the stratospheric winds which cover entire earth. The balloons are connected wirelessly with each other with help of Project Loon software and equipment (antennas) they carry.
The balloons are made from polyethylene plastic and are around 15 meters in diameter and the whole gear is about 12 meters in height.
Check out this introductory video of Project Loon that will give you an idea of how it works.
But How Will Loon Provide Last-Mile Internet Connectivity to Consumers?
While it is clear that Loon will be coming to India next year, there is no word on how internet will reach the end consumers. The internet from Project Loon uses 4G LTE based devices, which means that only devices that can receive 4G internet can access Project Loon internet.
Apart from that if you need to offer Internet in India, you will need to go through the Telecom operators and all the operators do not have 4G network license. Only Reliance Jio has Pan-India license.
It will be interesting to see if Project Loon Internet will be available through operators or whether Google plans to provide it directly, which looks nearly impossible, because they must have spectrum to provide it.
Also, Project Loon is all about affordable internet and Telecom operators may not want to offer cheap internet as they have paid big-bucks to gain spectrum and offering cheap internet means they will not be able to get return on the investment they did on spectrum
So, while Project Loon coming to India is a great news, lot of questions are still to be answered!