Almost two years after Project Loon was first unveiled, Google’s plan to provide Internet access to the world with floating balloons is coming along nicely. According to Ars Technica, each balloon can now supply a Rhode Island-sized region with 4G Internet, and can stay afloat for more than six months at a time.
The balloons, which Google refers to internally as “cell towers in the sky,” will initially focus on bringing Internet access to developing regions where cellular data is still scarce. “For some countries, having Internet once a day for an hour is a huge deal,” said Johan Mathe, who helped design Project Loon’s navigation system, in an interview with Ars.
Each balloon basically acts as a satellite, picking up Internet signals from the closest cell tower and then beaming it to the ground or to other Project Loon balloons. To start, Google is partnering with Vodafone in Australia and Telefónica in Latin America. The company also used its balloons to bring Internet to a Brazilian school in one early test.
Google’s balloons are already roaming the skies, though Project Loon is still in testing. We don’t expect the service to arrive here in the U.S. anytime soon, though it could definitely help clear up some of the dead spots that carriers just can’t seem to reach in rural parts of America.