Good news for those who reside in remote locations and have no hopes of getting internet connection in near future. Alphabet’s (formerly Google’s) research and development unit ‘X’ has been working on an assignment called ‘Project Loon’ with an intention to bring internet access to everyone by creating a network of balloons containing internet signals, flying through the stratosphere (second layer of Earth’s atmosphere).
Project Loon is typically a batch of dangling balloons floating through stratosphere. Every balloon would cover a certain territory and provide internet connection. The balloons will provide network signals without fluctuation, working as dangling routers. These balloons will have the capability of rendering LTE signals with cooperation of local ISPs.
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Project Loon uses predictive models of the winds and decision-making algorithms to guide the balloons where they’re required the most. It is partnering with different telecommunication organizations to amplify the connectivity into rural and remote locations so that people would be able to connect with their LTE-enabled devices.
These balloons are made maneuvered using wind data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The balloons are empowered to adjust their altitude in the stratosphere to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction
The telecommunication partners transmit the wireless internet signals up to the nearest balloon from the ground hub. This signal relays across the balloon network and the wireless internet goes down to people in rural and remote areas. Every Wi-Fi balloon has a coverage capacity of 5000 square kilometers.
How do they control the balloons?
Stratosphere has its own advantage of low wind speeds that ranges between 5 to 20 mph with negligible turbulence. Google claimed that it can model the seasonal longitudinal and latitudinal variations in wind speeds within the 18–25 km of this layer. Google also claimed that it can control the latitudinal and longitudinal position of high-altitude balloons by adequately adjusting the balloon’s altitude. By adjusting the volume and density of the gas (helium, hydrogen, or another lighter than air element) in the balloon, the balloon’s variable buoyancy system can control the balloon’s altitude.
Balloons communicated using unlicensed 2.4 and 5.8 GHz ISM bands (industrial, scientific and medical) initially. However, Google claims that the setup permits it to deliver “speeds comparable to 3G” to users, but they then switched to LTE with cellular spectrum by cooperating with local telecommunication operators.
Taking everything into concern ‘Balloon Internet Technology’ will be a new era of Wi-Fi networking. The technology designed in the project could allow developing countries to avoid installation of expensive fiber optic cables (which are supposed to be deployed only underground) to connect to the internet. This will greatly increase internet usage in Africa and Southeast Asia that can’t afford to lay underground fiber cables.