Project Loon is a Google project designed to bring the Internet to some of the more remote parts of the world, where building traditional infrastructure is currently uneconomic. Project Loon consists of floating large, nearly-transparent balloons into the stratosphere carrying the necessary equipment designed to broadcast Internet signals down to the surface. These balloons can operate for up to six months at a time but once returned to earth, may be recycled. The technology has the potential to provide a wide area with Internet coverage at a significantly reduced cost compared with building cellular data towers plus their necessary connection to the host carrier service. The Sri Lankan Government has engaged with Google in order to trial the Project Loon balloons and we’ve news today that one of three balloons to be used in the trials was launched in South America yesterday, Monday 15 February 2016. The Sri Lanka trial follows experiments in both the Australian outback and Indonesia.
Muhunthan Canagey, Sri Lanka’s Information and Communications Technology Chief, reported that a Google team are expected in Sri Lanka later this week in order to test “flight controls, efficiency and other technical matters.” The Government has announced it is to take a 25% stake in the Google joint venture in the form of allocating spectrum to the project rather than investing any capital into the project. 10% of the joint venture is to be offered to Sri Lanka’s existing telephone service operators. These domestic service providers will be able to access higher performance data speeds and service quality improvements once the project is up and running, but also may be used to extend their reach and hopefully increase the number of mobile Internet users. Of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population, just 3.3 million have a mobile Internet connection although this still dwarfs the number of fixed line Internet subscribers, at 630,000. Sri Lanka is the most advanced South Asian country when it comes to cellular phones and connections: it was the first to introduce cell phones back in 1989, the first to introduced a 3G network in 2004 and again the first to unveil a 4G LTE data network in 2014.