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Alphabet calls in the balloons

09 Octobre 2017

The license extends from October 6th until April 4th, 2018, and it was granted to Ben Wojtowicz, a software engineer and member of Alphabet's X lab who works on Project Loon. Those will link to balloons flying almost 13 miles above the Earth, from which cell service will be broadcast down to the islands. He sat down with Mike Huckabee for an interview, where the host lobbed questions softer than the paper towel rolls Trump tossed into crowds of people in Puerto Rico.

On Friday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an application for Google parent company, Alphabet Inc., to reestablish cellphone service to Puerto Rico. "We're still working massive issues in [response to hurricanes] Harvey, Irma, as well as the issues in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and now this one". Billionaire Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, has approached Puerto Rico about restoring the island's shattered electrical infrastructure using solar energy technology.

Project Loon works by relaying a signal beamed from a telecom partner on the ground through its network of balloons floating around 65,000 feet in the air, and then sending that signal down to people with cellphones. The FCC licence will allow X to fly balloons until April 4, 2018, though it remains unclear how much of the territories in question will be covered by the experiment.

What makes the Project Loon balloons so intriguing is how they are completely solar-powered.

Maria Quesada has a brother, who is a doctor in Puerto Rico. Data is transmitted from a ground based LTE tower, relayed around the balloon network and down to users on the ground. Rather than provide internet service itself, the company will focus on restoring cell phone services in the country. That is going to prove somewhat hard since technical crews need to get carrier towers up and running again before attempting any large-scale operation. It was able to help Peru earlier this year, amidst significant flooding and hopes to replicate this success.

Alphabet calls in the balloons