Recently Facebook announced Internet.org in India, and now Google is also all set to bring its internet project offering connectivity to remote areas here. According to a new report by The Times of India, Google is in talks with the Indian government to introduce its Project Loon, an internet project that uses high-altitude balloons to offer affordable internet across the globe to people without any access.
Mohammad Gawdat, VP of business Innovation at Google X told the news site that the company plans to launch a commercial format that will allow coverage on “every square inch” on earth by 2016. He also said that the company is working ‘closely’ with telcos and governments across the world to achieve this.
Project Loon uses balloons that travel 20 km above the earth. Using software algorithms, Loon determines where the balloon needs to go depending upon the wind. It started as a pilot project in New Zealand wherein 30 balloons were launched. Last year in November, Google announced that Project Loon has the ability to launch up to 20 balloons per day. According to a Google+ post, it was possible because the autofill equipment had improved and the time to fill the balloon had come down under 5 minutes.
The balloons can now last up to 10 times longer in the stratosphere, than they did in 2013 and a lot of them have lasted over 100 days – with 130 days being a record, Google had said.
The balloons travel 20km above the Earth’s surface, in the stratosphere. Loon uses software algorithms to determine where the balloon needs to go depending on the direction of the wind. It started as a pilot some two years back when 30 balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island that beamed internet to a small group of users.
Gawdat, who previously co-founded more than 15 businesses and serves as a board member for several startups, feels that incremental technology adoption wouldn’t contribute to solving the massive internet access issue. “The reason I say that is because in doing incremental technology, the economics works against that. You will spend billions of dollars in deploying telecom towers. For instance, if you have a disaster like a tsunami, all of the telecom infrastructure would be destroyed and it would take 4-5 months to restore it fully,” he said.
Google is also working on a wind power project. The company recently built an aeroplane-like kite tethered up to 300 metres to do a manoeuvre aided by the direction of the wind. The kite’s movements generate power. “We believe through this we should be able to get a 100% improvement on the current renewable technology out there. It will be available at a much cheaper cost,” Gawdat said.
It hopes to begin production in 2016. “Considering how interested India is in renewable energy, we are in talks with the government to make India one of the countries to deploy this,” Gawdat said.
In association with Reliance Communications, Facebook has just launched its Internet.org initiative in India. Under this program, subscribers of RCom’s network will be offered free access to thirty three websites.
Also destined to arrive in India is Google’s wind power project. An airplane-like kite is sent about 300 meters up into the air, and allowed to do a particular maneuver which helps it generate power. It should hence become a cheap and dependable source of energy.
Before their advent in 2016, we’re sure to receive more details about Google’s balloon-powered internet and kite-powered energy in India, so stay tuned until more news is out.