Project Loon Launches LTE Balloons in Puerto Rico



/ 6 months ago

Project Loon

Project Loon is reporting significant progress.

We haven’t heard anything about Alphabet’s Project Loon in a while. Fortunately, it appears that things are actually right on track. With so many areas affected by hurricanes lately, maintaining communication lines is incredibly important. That’s why Project Loon has recently launched a fleet of LTE balloons in Puerto Rico. Some parts of the island are still recovering from Hurricane Maria, but now, residents with LTE-equipped smartphones can send text messages and even browse the web lightly thanks to these balloons. The official LTE partner for this endeavor is AT&T. This isn’t the first time Loon has deployed balloons in times of crisis. Since 2013, the project has helped numerous regions, and it even participated in a high-profile disaster relief effort in Peru.

Regarding the recent Puerto Rico project, Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth revealed the following in a blog post:

“We’ve never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace, and we’re grateful for the support of AT&T and the many other partners and organizations that have made this possible. Thanks to the Pan-American and Puerto Rican governments’ aviation authorities and air traffic controllers, who enabled us to send small teams of balloons from our launch site in Nevada to Puerto Rico. Thanks also to SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision who helped quickly set up essential ground infrastructure so that the balloons could get internet connectivity.”

How many residents will benefit?

It’s worth noting that this is Loon’s fastest deployment to date. It is also one of the most expansive, meaning that it will affect as many as 3.5 million residents. The FCC allowed Loon to operate in Puerto Rico in early October. At the time, almost 83% of the island’s cell towers were inoperational. Obviously, these people won’t browse the internet at blazing speeds. However, even basic connectivity can seem like a blessing in the wake of a natural disaster.

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