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Project Loon nears its first birthday, has big ambitions for its second birthday

Come this Saturday, Project Loon will celebrate its "first birthday". While the project is still in the experimental stage, it's coming a long way and Google has plans going forward.
June 16, 2014
Project Loon Google Raven Aerostar Balloon

Google is quickly approaching Project Loons first “birthday”, which will take place this coming Saturday. While the project is still a long ways off from making balloon-powered Internet access commonplace, today Wired published a piece that makes it clear that Google has big plans for Project Loon over the coming year.

First let’s take a look at how far Project Loon has come up to this point. From originally being nothing more than a theoretical program, Google has now conducted multiple tests with balloons staying in the air for as long as 75-days.

It's clear that Google has big plans for Project Loon over the coming year

Recently Google even successfully brought LTE-powered Internet access to a remote Brazilian school on the outskirts of Campo Maior, using a ballon-borne system that uses wings as opposed to hot air. This was a major deal considering this area barely can make cell calls in most spots and is completely without web access.

As for the speeds of service, the use of LTE delivers a connection of 22 MB/s to an antenna placed strategically on the ground or up to 5 MB/s to a phone. This might not be as impressive as traditional LTE would allow, but it’s pretty solid considering the high-altitude tech at work here.

What’s next for Project Loon?

Google has come along ways, but where will they go from here? Speaking with Google X leader ASTRO Teller, Wired reports Google hopes to move past the experimental stage by the time they reach the project’s second birthday.

According to Google project director Mike Cassidy, some of their more immediate goals include plans for routine flights of 100 days with 100 balloons in the air at once. After they succeed to this point, Google will take things up a notch to 300 to 400 ballons circling the globe to offer continuous service to a target area.

[quote qtext=”On Loon’s two-year birthday, I would hope, instead of running experiments, we’ll have a more or less permanent set of balloons. In one or several countries, you will turn on your phone and talk to the balloons.” qperson=”ASTRO Teller” qsource=”Google X’s leader” qposition=”center”]

What’s less clear is what areas Google will be targeting initially during their “pilot program” phase. We do know that Google may work with local service providers and perhaps even governmental bodies to ‘rent out’ the balloons as opposed to offering the service directly to consumers in remote areas. We also know that the service could even be used in developed countries eventually to plug up coverage holes for major carriers — though don’t expect this until a long ways down the road, as developing markets are still the primary concern for Google and Project Loon.

The big takeaway here is that Project Loon is looking less like a moonshot idea and more like a legit concept, not bad for only a year’s progress. Whether Project Loon can eventually make dead spots for phone/net access a thing of the past for all of the globe remains unseen, but they have certainly made some excellent baby steps so far.

What do you think of Project Loon, excited about it’s potential for the future?