Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Balloons to provide Puerto Rico with telephone service

Sergey Brin Google cofounder Sergey Brin with a Loon
Melba Vasquez | 12 October, 2017, 17:15

After Hurricane Maria made landfall and devastated the area, the electric grid and wireless communications are still mostly out of service.

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.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services.

Google parent company Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2013 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions, said in an FCC filing it was working to "support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability" in Puerto Rico. To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone.

Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with an emphasis on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

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

"22 (same as yesterday ) out of the 78 counties in Puerto Rico have 100 percent of their cell sites out of service".

Despite the best efforts of cell companies, the vast majority of Puerto Rico is offline. The idea behind this project is to strap hardware that beams internet down to the masses underneath high altitude balloons.

"In March, Peru was battered by extreme rains and flooding, with the government declaring more than 800 provinces to be in a state of emergency". The reason for increased difficulty is that Loon was already in testing in Peru with a carrier and was ready to roll.

Updates to Loon's navigational system had applied machine learning techniques to the flight data collected for the goal of predicting wind directions at different altitudes. The goal of Project Loon is to provide internet coverage to inaccessible or less developed parts of the world by floating large balloons in the stratosphere, at about 65,000 feet. "In total, the balloon managed to spend 14 weeks in Peruvian airspace, which required making almost 20,000 separate altitude adjustments during its flight".

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