Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Google aims high to restore connectivity to Puerto Rico

Google aims high to restore connectivity to Puerto Rico Google aims high to restore connectivity to Puerto Rico
Conrad Doyle | 11 October, 2017, 08:53

"Project Loon, a balloon-delivered internet project that started with Google and is now under Alphabet's (which owns Google) X 'innovation lab" stable, may soon be helping Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands residents receive quality LTE cellular service and highspeed internet.

On October 3, Pai asked the Commission for up to seven months of carrier funding to be provided in a lump sum in order to restore service in Puerto Rico. Google parent company Alphabet has proposed launching balloons over the island to bring Wi-Fi service to hard-to-reach places, as it has in other parts of the world.

In Puerto Rico, Project Loon will use land mobile radio spectrum in the 900 MHz band borrowed from mobile carriers now operating within the USA territory.

More than 80% of cellular sites remain out of service in Puerto Rico, according to the FCC.

Alphabet's Project Loon was unveiled in 2013 with the ambitious goal of bringing "balloon-powered Internet [to] everyone" on Earth.

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

"We're grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it's possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need", said Libby Leahy, a spokesman for Alphabet's X division.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk talked Friday with Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rosselló about assisting in fix of the island's power grid with solar-powered batteries. She added that "we've been making solid progress" on that next step. The tech firm received a formal license from the FCC on Saturday to use its Project Loon service to provide emergency cellular service to the island. But Loon already had been working on network integration with a carrier there, Telefonica.

"More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services", said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a prepared statement. Earlier this year, Loon provided coverage to tens of thousands of people in Peru following major flooding.

Project Loon will be facing several challenges in Puerto Rico.

Loon is meant to provide LTE communications between stations on the ground by linking them to high-altitude balloons equipped with airborne repeaters.

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