Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Large Internet-Beaming Balloons Might Be Headed To Puerto Rico

Google's Project Loon uses balloons to send mobile phone signals to remote areas
Credit
Google via AFP Google's Project Loon uses balloons to send mobile phone signals to remote areas Credit Google via AFP
Debra Rodriguez | 08 October, 2017, 00:32

Late yesterday, Google parent Alphabet received permission from the FCC to use balloons to provide Puerto Rico with emergency cellular coverage.

More than 80% of Puerto Rico's cellular towers are still out of service more than two weeks after the arrival there of Hurricane Maria, and almost one-third of the island's counties have no service, according to the FCC.

Mr Musk said the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago.

Though the Loon technology is not entirely proven, it could help speed the restoration of vital communications as the US territory works to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Loon is one of Google's original "moonshot efforts created to bring connectivity to remote areas of the world and locales struggling in the aftermath of natural disaster". It's unclear if Puerto Rico's stressed telecom companies even have the resources to partner with Google on this endeavor.

In a statement given to Engadget, a spokesperson for Alphabet's X lab said the team needs to work with a partner network of a local telecom, like Telefonica, to make it all work.

The US Federal Communications Commission announced its decision on Friday evening, one of a number of ways in which tech companies are helping rebuild services.

Lexington, Massachusetts-based Vanu Inc., which sets up wireless communications networks in rural parts of the United States, Africa and India, is sending dozens of its small, solar-powered cellular base stations to volunteer crews on the ground in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It's a different story for Puerto Rico. Aid workers are pairing Vanu's devices with other technology, such as inflatable satellite antennas.

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