Google X Announces Project Loon: Balloon-Powered Internet For Remote Areas
In North America, nearly 80 percent of the population has access to the Internet. According to the International Telecommunications Union, in Asia, where the United Nations pegged the population at nearly 4 billion last year, slightly more than a billion people, a little better than 27 percent, has access. In Africa, the rate is less than 16 percent.
Internet giant Google says that two out of every three people on the globe has no access to a fast Internet connection and so is not participating in the global conversation that connected people take part in every day.
That’s the problem it’s aiming to solve with its latest “big idea” project out of its Google[x] research and development unit. Announced yesterday in a corporate blog post, it’s called Google Loon, and the idea is deceptively simple: Float a bunch of balloons carrying solar-powered equipment that generates a wireless data signal up to the stratosphere, high above where airplanes fly, but still far below where orbital satellites circle the Earth.
Currently, Google says it is using 30 balloons in this pilot project and about 50 testers in New Zealand are using the service on the ground. These testers have special antennas that can connect to the balloons when they are within a 20km radius.
Google, and its chairman Eric Schmidt in particular, have long been talking about the importance of getting those two-thirds of the earth’s population who don’t currently have Internet access online.