Technology company Google has this week announced plans to roll out its Project Loon internet technology in Indonesia.
Starting in 2016, the company – now part of the ‘Alphabet’ conglomerate – will begin providing wireless internet to remote parts of the Indonesian Archipelago.
To do this, Google is using a network of high altitude balloons which function as a wireless mesh network over an area.
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The balloons used by the company are helium-filled ‘superpressure’ balloons carrying large solar-powered wireless internet routers.
Due to their constant volume, they can remain in a stable altitude despite changes in temperature.
As part of Project Loon, Google has been testing these devices on the South Island of New Zealand for several years.
It now believes that its technology is close to being ready for commercial deployment, and is set to begin its first real-world trial.
The company has announced that it will collaborate with three major Indonesian telecommunications companies – Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata – in order to provide wireless internet.
Indonesia was chosen as a location due to the remoteness of many of its regions, and the subsequent lack of reliable internet coverage.
“In Indonesia today, only about one out of every three people are connected to the web, and most of their connections are painfully slow,” the company explained in a statement.
In such an environment, the Project Loon balloons function as “floating cell phone towers in the sky”, which can leapfrog the need for ground-based connections.
The connection provided by this balloon network will be reportedly around 10 megabits per second, close to the speed of a 4G mobile network.
In order to provide a constant ring of coverage around the world, Google estimates that it will need close to 300 individual high-altitude balloons.
While it is pushing ahead with Project Loon, Google has remained tight-lipped on its business model as an internet infrastructure provider.
Whether or not the company chooses to charge for its service, they also stand to gain from a greater number of users of its popular Android operating system in developing countries empowered by Project Loon.