Google’s balloons to try beaming internet to millions of Indonesians

Google will bring a whole new meaning to the term Cloud computing when it starts using high-altitude balloons to beam internet connectivity down onto 250 million Indonesians.

The internet giant announced this week that three of Indonesia’s top mobile network operators will test the concept in the coming years in an effort to bring high-speed connectivity to the two-thirds of the Indonesian population that presently cannot log on.

The scheme, called Project Loon, aims to solve the problem of building enough masts and laying enough fiber optic cable in Indonesia, with its large population spread out over 17,000 islands, many of which are forested and mountainous.

Google’s Loon balloons will act as floating cell phone towers in the sky, the company said this week.

Reaching altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, each one beams a connection down to the ground, and as one balloon drifts out of range, another moves in to take its place.

Beneath the solar powered balloon hangs two radios to send and receive data streams, along with a GPS tracker and an "altitude control system" for steering.

From left to right: Ririek Adriansyah, CEO of Telkomsel; Dian Siswarini, CEO of XL Axiata; Alexander Rusli, Indosat CEO; Mike Cassidy, VP, Loon; Sergey Brin, President, Alphabet Inc (Google)

Google says the balloons should help local operators extend their coverage further into rural and remote areas.

Currently in Indonesia, only about 1 out of every 3 people are connected to the web, and most connections are slow.

Many people live in areas without existing internet infrastructure as it’s difficult to run fiber optic cables or install mobile phone towers.

Earlier this year Google signed an agreement to deploy internet balloons in Sri Lanka.

Google also owns Project Titan which can send solar-powered drones in to the sky which can provide internet connections below.

Image: Google’s Loon balloon (Wikipedia)

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