Alphabet, the new holding company that now includes Google and other Google spin-offs, partnered with three telecommunications companies from Indonesia to bring Internet access to the country's citizens through solar-powered balloons.
Project Loon sends solar-powered balloons 16,000 feet (5,000 meters) into the air, from where they deliver Internet access by connecting through radio signals to antennas on the ground. The Project Loon engineers came up with algorithms that would keep the balloons in the air for as long as possible by finding which winds can carry them along their plotted course.
Project Loon was originally a "moonshoot" experiment at the Google X division, which is now turning into a real business under Alphabet. Before the full service is launched, Alphabet and its three Indonesian partners will first launch only several hundred balloons over the country's more than 17,000 islands, to see where the gaps in service exist. The project has already been tested in Brazil, New Zealand and Australia.
Project Loon Vice President Mike Cassidy said that this was the first time it used signals from multiple telecommunications partners through the same balloon. He also expects this deployment to reach 100 million users.
"We've been kind of having an increasing succession of tests: tests for getting balloon flights to work, tests to test connectivity. It's super exciting that this is going to serve actual communities," said Sergei Brin, Google's co-founder.
Brin also added that it's much cheaper to deliver Internet access this way to a country that is full of jungles and islands, where traditional Internet access through cables or even through wireless cell towers would prove more difficult and more expensive.
Alphabet's Indonesian partners will use the trial period to determine the type of pricing and billing they will use, while the Project Loon engineers will work on the remaining technical issues.
Before it became part of Alphabet, Google was also working on "Project Titan," which includes Internet delivery through solar-powered drones that are supposed to stay in the air up to five years. The company was also planning to invest $1 billion in SpaceX's satellite-based Internet access business.
Lucian Armasu joined Tom’s Hardware in early 2014. He writes news stories on mobile, chipsets, security, privacy, and anything else that might be of interest to him from the technology world. Outside of Tom’s Hardware, he dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.