Google Fleet of Balloons Will Broadcast Internet to Indonesian Islands

Friday, Oct 30, 2015

Google’s plan of bringing Internet to more than 4 billion people who are currently unconnected is set to be tested next year in Indonesia.

Google will use hundreds of balloon from its Project Loon to make Internet accessible across Indonesia, which remains one of the nations least connected across southeast Asia.

The tech giant is teaming up with operators of local mobile networks to start beaming LTE high-speed connections to over 100 million people who are currently lacking network access.

Google announced its Loon launch during a press conference at its headquarters at Mountain View, California together with executives from mobile networks in Indonesia that included Indosat, XL Axiata and Telkomsel.

The four signed a memorandum of understanding the will start the testing of the airborne base station technology for Project Loon in 2016 over Indonesia.

Estimates for internet penetration in Indonesia vary. Indonesia has more than 256 million inhabitants across over 17,000 islands with official calculations that close to one third of that population have access to Internet.

However, an online internet connectivity researcher estimates that Indonesia has only 15.8% user penetration for Internet, which would rank it No. 135 on the planet, ahead of a number of countries in Africa as well of regions in Asia.

Penetration of mobile broadband in Indonesia is 24.2% while only 1.3% of the entire population had a fixed connection, according to researchers.

The launch in Indonesia marks the fourth test bed for Project Loon for its technology, following trials in New Zealand, Australia and Brazil, which are running in partnership with local carriers for two years.

Instead of acquiring a spectrum for its Project Loon, Google opted to partner in the areas with local telecoms to utilize theirs.

The rationale for using air balloons is that the frequency bands offer a broader coverage if in the sky, or about 18 to 27 kilometers above earth, than any terrestrial tower.

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