Advertising giant Google has announced that it is to run a large-scale implementation of its Project Loon balloon-based internet experiment in partnership with the top three mobile networks in Indonesia.
Google's impressive revenues depends entirely on convincing users to use the internet: between its various direct consumer-serving products like Android and Google Search and its indirect services like AdWords it builds up an impressive amount of information which can then be used to offer a terrifyingly detailed behavioural portfolio to advertisers, its real customers. With majority market shares for most of its products, there's only one real way forward for the company if it wants to grow: getting more people online.
It's with this in mind that Google created Project Loon, an experiment in attaching mesh networking routers to balloons flying 20 kilometres above the ground - creating a network infrastructure where no infrastructure previously existed, and significantly more cheaply than digging holes and running cables. In its first large-scale roll-out, Google has teamed up with Indonesian mobile operators Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata to offer Project Loon connectivity to more than 100 million Indonesians - a vast improvement on the two-in-three who are currently disconnected, and at speeds of which the one-in-three who already have a connection could have only dreamed.
'Many people live in areas without existing Internet infrastructure; on an archipelago of over 17,000 islands, with mountains and jungles, it’s difficult to run fibre optic cable or install mobile phone towers,
Google's Mike Cassidy. 'That’s where Loon comes in. Loon balloons act like floating cell phone towers in the sky. Flying on the winds at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, each one beams a connection down to the ground; as one balloon drifts out of range, another moves in to take its place. We hope this could help local operators extend the coverage of their existing networks, and reach further into rural and remote areas.
Cassidy has said that the roll-out will begin some time next year, but has not yet offered a firm launch date for IP-over-balloons.