Google Balloons to reach Internet to Hinterlands

Google has launched 30 balloons into the stratosphere from New Zealand as it experiments with ways to bring affordable internet access to the world.Nicknamed Project Loon, the internet giant is sending the superpressure balloons 12 miles up into the air, where they will sail around the globe at twice the altitude of aeroplanes.
The helium-filled balloons inflate to 49ft in diameter and carry transmitters that could beam 3G-speed internet to some of the 4.8billion people in the world that are not yet online, supplying an area of about 780 square miles – twice the size of New York City.
Project Loon was developed in the company’s X Lab by the same team behind Google Glasses and the driverless car. It is hoped it could save developing countries the high cost of laying fibre cables to get online and lead to a dramatic increase in internet access for the likes of Africa and south-east Asia.
Loon could even provide emergency back-up for areas during natural disasters.
‘The idea behind Loon was that it might be easier to tie the world together by using what it has in common – the skies – than the process of laying fibre and trying to put up cellphone infrastructure.’
Fifty volunteer residents signed up to be a tester for a project that was so secret no-one would tell them what it was for.
Technicians came to the volunteers’ homes and attached bright red receivers the size of basketballs that look like giant Google map pins – which every building would need to receive the signal.
Charles Nimmo, a farmer and entrepreneur in the small town of Leeston, was the first tester to get online from the airborne balloons.
Google’s balloons fly free and out of sight, scavenging power from card table-sized solar panels that dangle below and gather enough charge in four hours to power them for a day as the balloons sail around the globe on the prevailing winds.
Far below, ground stations with internet capabilities about 60 miles (100km) apart bounce signals up to the balloons.
The signals would hop forward, from one balloon to the next, along a backbone of up to five balloons.
As the world’s largest advertising network, Google itself stands to expand its own empire by bringing internet to the masses.
Source: Google News

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