Is Google’s Plan to Use Balloons to Connect People to the Internet Looney?

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Project Loon balloon sails through the stratospher

Remember when I wrote about Facebook’s plan to use drones to connect the world to the Internet? Far fetched, yet true. Now I bring you the story about Google’s plan to connect the world using balloons. You read that correctly. Balloons. If I saw these two ideas in a movie, I would roll my eyes because they sound so crazy. Yet both of these ideas are being tested right now. In the case of the balloons, which is called Project Loon, Google envisions providing Internet access to rural areas via connected balloons hovering high above the earth. Loon is actually a project of Google X, which is a research arm of the search engine giant. Their more famous project is Google Glass.

Project Loon uses balloons to connect people to the Internet

According to Google, two-thirds of the world’s population does not have Internet access. To help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters, Google X created Project Loon. As I mentioned previously, the company plans to use a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space to connect people in rural and remote areas.

Project Loon was announced a year ago. The researchers are still conducting experiments. But by the end of its second year, they hope to have a system running on a more permanent basis and having real people use their balloons to connect to the Internet.

Google team launching Project Loon balloon

According to Google, Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. In the stratosphere, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed. Loon balloons go where they’re needed by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel. People can connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from this antenna up to the balloon network, and then down to the global Internet on Earth.

Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter at speeds comparable to 3G. For balloon-to-balloon and balloon-to-ground communications, the balloons use antennas equipped with specialized radio frequency technology. Project Loon currently uses ISM bands (specifically 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands) that are available for anyone to use.

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