Google's Project Loon, which aims to deliver Internet connectivity to poorly connected areas via a global network of high-altitude balloons, could be ready for carrier testing later this year.
"We're now in commercial discussions with telcos around the world, and we'll be flying over places like Indonesia for real service testing this year," says Astro Teller, head of Alphabet's X group. He notes Project Loon has confronted and overcome several challenges.
To deliver reliable connectivity, Google had to ensure it has enough balloons in place so when one floats out of range over a particular area, another balloon is in place to take over. Google solved this problem by using algorithms and wind data collected from around the world, and by constantly changing the weight of the balloons in such a way as to take advantage of wind speeds and directions at high altitudes.
Other challenges included finding ways to have the balloons communicate with each other and also directly with handsets, and finding a way to keep balloons the size of a house afloat for more than 100 days while keeping the cost of building them at less than 5 percent of the cost of making conventional long-life balloons, according to Teller.
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