It’s been a full year since Google announced Project Loon, its plan to bring Internet service to the world with an army of high-flying balloons. In that time the project, which grew out of the company’s Google X facility, has certainly hit a few speed bumps, but moving into its second year Google is confident Project Loon could soon become a leading Internet supplier in some parts of the world.
In its first year of experimentation Google’s balloons have improved drastically. They now offer ten times the bandwidth, steer ten times as well and stay up for ten times longer than they did when first announced. The company tells Wired that at this point it’s more than 50 percent likely Project Loon will become a reality. The speeds aren’t anything to laugh at, either. The balloons are able to send connections with throughput hovering around 22MBps (176Mbps) to the ground, and 5MBps (40Mbps) to mobile devices, Wired said, though those speeds will likely slow drastically as more users and devices share the network.
For that to happen Google still needs to make some big improvements, which includes getting 100 balloons in the air at the same time and increasing their average flight-length to 100 days. Eventually, the goal is too have several hundred balloons circling the planet at once, at which point you’ll be able to hook into the service and make a call or jump online from your phone.
Google also hints that Project Loon could even help bring service to annoying dead spots in developed countries and major cities, where the company might be able to charge more for the service. It’s unclear exactly when the project could go from experiment to deployment, though Google hints that an official pilot program may launch in the near future.