Balloons Have Delivered Internet To Over 100000 Puerto Ricans
Nov 10 2017 by Joanne Wise
Alphabet, Google's parent company, launched Project Loon in America last month after the FCC granted the company an experimental license in light of Hurricane Maria, which swept Puerto Rico and left the island in "survival mode" for the past seven weeks. At the same time, it announced that T-Mobile customers, in addition to AT&T subscribers, could connect to Loon. For context, Puerto Rico has a population of approximately 3.4 million, with the balloons targeting the hardest hit regions.
Two weeks later the service was up and running with balloons launched from a site in Nevada being navigated to the island.
Power line poles downed by the passing of Hurricane Maria lie on a street in San Juan, Puerto Rico on November 7, 2017.
In a blog post, Project Loon's head Alastair Westgarth said that the balloons carrying internet were able to provide "basic communication and internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones". Project Loon sent balloons to flood-ravaged Peru in May.
'Thanks also to SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision who helped quickly set up essential ground infrastructure so that the balloons could get internet connectivity'. Facebook, Tesla, and Cisco had promised to support the people during the disaster.
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The Loon team joined forces with AT&T and T-Mobile for the efforts, which sends the balloons some 65,000 feet in the air to create a network that relays LTE signals to telecom partners on the ground below (in this case, AT&T and T-Mobile).
It then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction.
The inflatable part of the balloon is called a balloon envelope made from sheets of polyethylene plastic that are 49ft (15 metres) wide and 40ft (12 metres) tall when inflated.
The balloons are solar powered and have batteries on board, but service at night is limited.
In addition to Project Loon, telecommunication providers have been working to fix damaged cellular sites and towers on the ground.