Google’s Project Loon connects 100k in Puerto Rico
Although many view the Internet as a global phenomenon, more than half of the world’s population are still without Internet access. Project Loon is an initiative by Google designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide, using a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space. The new technology can not only help fill coverage gaps but it can also help to bring people back online after disasters, as seen in Puerto Rico after cellphone towers were knocked out by Hurricane Maria.
“In times of crisis, being able to communicate with loved ones, emergency services and critical information is key,” – Alastair Westgarth, project lead at Project Loon
A Loon balloon on its way to Puerto Rico from Nevada
This is the second time Loon has been tested during a disaster relief effort with balloons sent to flood zones in Peru last year. The balloons have helped enable texts, emails and basic web access, however Alphabet, Google’s parent company, have stressed that Loon is still new and unpredictable despite the recent success.
How does Loon work?
Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space. The Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as air planes and the weather. In the stratosphere, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed, the balloons go where they’re needed by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel.
Google has partnered with various telecoms companies to share cellular spectrum to allow people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. The signal is then passed across the balloon network and back down to the global Internet on Earth.
5G government competition with million pound grants
5G is expected to be capable of delivering extremely fast data with estimates between 10 – 50 Gbit/s compared with today’s average 4G download speed of 15 Mbit/s. In fact, back in 2013 Samsung tested 5G at 1Gbps and journalists reported that a HD movie could be downloaded in less than 30 seconds. In 2014, Samsung set a mobile speed record of 7.5Gb/s in another 5G trail, while estimates predict the speed will reach 10Gb/s, with transfer rates as high as 800Gb/s further down the line, taking your download time of a full length film to around a second!
“We are determined to be one of the first countries in the world to use 5G. In these very early stages we want all ideas, from all parts of the country, that will help us get the technology and the roll-out right to have a nationwide network of 5G innovators.” – Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital
Fast track to 2017 and the government is hoping that the UK will be ‘at the forefront of 5G’, with a new competition ‘5G Testbeds and Trials’. The competition aim is to encourage the development of a UK ‘5G ecosystem’ with technology and deployment, testbeds and trials to stimulate the development of 5G use cases and business models. Applicants will have the chance to win grant funding of between £2 million and £5 million, out of the £25 million total budget.
“ The Programme is designed to help address some of society’s biggest challenges, such as those faced in health and social care, focusing on areas where the Government’s role can have the most impact. ” – Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital
Two groups of organisations will make use of Testbeds: connectivity providers and their supply chains; and industry and public sectors that could uncover new ways of working with 5G capabilities. Here are some examples:
The competition opened on October 23rd 2017, and will close registration on December 6th 2017.