After running pilots in countries like Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Indonesia, Brazil and the U.S., Google is all set to finally bring its Project Loon to India. The company has been trying to get its high-flying project off the ground in the country for a long time, but getting the nod from the relevant government departments had been a major issue thus far, with many in the corridors of power wondering if a bunch of balloons flying over important and often secretive installations may compromise national security in some way or another. Yet others expressed concerns that the flying objects may also be hijacked by terrorists and used for attacks. Wireless carriers in the country also objected to the usage of either licensed or unlicensed spectrum by Google, citing concerns about cellular interference. The fact that Google wants its spectrum for free also isn’t exactly going down well with the powerful telecom lobby in the country.
Even now that the government has reportedly given its nod to the project, the American tech giant is believed to have got a very limited mandate to conduct the initial test for a period of just four days at a location either in the Southern state of Andhra Pradesh or the Western state of Maharashtra. That task of finding the ideal spot to carry out the trials rests with the NIC (National Informatics Centre), and officials from the organization is expected to hold formal talks with Google representatives later this week. According to an unidentified high-level government functionary, the only reason Google is even getting the nod in spite of so much pushback, is because India needs alternative ways to bring the power of the internet to people living in far-flung areas. So even if Project Loon does come to India at some stage, it will be restricted to “the interiors of the country, since there is already ample connectivity in urban areas”.
For the uninitiated, Project Loon is an endeavor from Google to bring internet access to residents in remote areas that are not covered by traditional wireline or even wireless telecom infrastructure. Google plans to provide network connectivity in such places by transmitting signals through wireless routers placed in high-altitude balloons that would fly through the stratosphere about twenty kilometers above sea-level. The project initially used the unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequency bands that are globally reserved for Wi-Fi, but more recently, Google has been partnering with local wireless carriers to use their LTE spectrum for last-mile connectivity.