A recent FCC (Federal Communications Commission) filing from Google that was made public yesterday sounds suspiciously like Project Loon. Project Loon, for those who aren’t aware, is Google X’s plan to bring internet to hard-to-reach areas, and low-income places by a network of balloons which emit wireless signals. However, by giving access to the Internet, Google also wants to increase traffic for its own massively popular search engine. Previously, the ambitious plan was suspected to be close to release, and the new document asks for an “experimental license” to be in effect for 24 months beginning January 1st, 2016. An experimental license would allow Google to use the Project Loon equipment in certain frequencies without FCC certification, for testing purposes.
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In Google’s application, the company lays out plans to avoid interfering with users and operators of wireless technologies in the area. Specifically, by operating within the mostly unused frequency ranges of 71-76Ghz, and 81-86Ghz, which Google argues are unaffected by their tests in 88.6% of the United States. In the other areas, they’ll use other frequencies, and modify such things as transmit power and bandwidth to avoid harmful interference. This is a far cry from current cellular frequencies, which don’t exceed 24Ghz, and the networks should be unaffected. In fact, most US carriers are currently clamoring for low-band spectrum to patch holes in their networks, via the upcoming 600Mhz auction.
The filing papers themselves are littered with [REDACTED] markings, to protect Google trade secrets and hardware partners, however based on the information that is available, it’s possible to conclude that this is related to Project Loon. One of Google X’s project heads, Astro Teller, is named on the filing itself, and he’s been working on the development of Project Loon for some time. His name alone is enough to give suspicion that this is in fact a Project Loon filing. 9to5Google also notes that the filing mentions previous tests, and that Google had previously tested Project Loon domestically in Nevada. While we won’t know exactly what the filing is for until next year, Project Loon seems almost definite. Even in the US, there are still areas which don’t have internet access in less-developed counties, and rural areas. According to the FCC, 17% of Americans (roughly 55 million people) don’t have access to high-speed internet access. With this newest Google program drawing closer to completion, many more should soon be able to enjoy interactions across the globe.