Internet balloons to benefit small business—Google


In this March 1, 2013 photo released by Google, a fully inflated test balloon sits in a hangar at Moffett Field airfield, Calif. Google is testing the balloons which sail in the stratosphere and beam the Internet to Earth. AP/Google, Andrea Dunlap

SINGAPORE — Google’s plans to beam the Internet from giant balloons sent to the stratosphere could boost small businesses in rural parts of Asia by connecting them online, the company said Wednesday.

Karim Temsamani, Google’s head of Asia Pacific, said in a speech at the Communicasia conference in Singapore, that the Internet balloons might also facilitate communication during disasters.

Google last week revealed top secret plans to launch thousands of balloons to provide Internet connections to remote parts of the world, allowing the more than four billion people with no access to get online.

Its scientists on Saturday released up to 30 helium-filled test balloons flying 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) above Christchurch in New Zealand, carrying antennae linked to ground base stations.

“What’s devastating is that only a tiny fraction of SMEs (small-medium enterprises) all across Asia are online right now,” Temsamani told the conference.

He said India, one of the region’s emerging economies, has 47 million small businesses, but only one percent are online.

“Getting more businesses online is crucial to every single country in the region,” he said.

The experimental balloon project, called Project Loon, is one way to provide affordable Internet access to “rural, remote and under-served” regions, Temsamani said.

“For farmers in remote rural areas, this would bring market information that allows them to get better prices from merchants,” he added.

The balloons, which once in the stratosphere will be twice as high as commercial airliners and barely visible to the naked eye, will also help in disasters when communication infrastructure is down, Temsamani said.

“For places with few doctors, this could help relay drug information. In disasters, this could help coordinate supplies,” he said.

The balloon network is controlled by ground stations connecting to the local Internet infrastructure and beaming signals to the balloons, which are self-powered by solar panels.

Users below have an Internet antennae they attach the side of their house which can send and receive data signals from the balloons passing overhead.

Some 50 people were chosen to take part in the trial in New Zealand and were able to link to the Internet.

Temsamani cautioned that the project remained in an experimental stage, and would require a lot of work from participating nations.

“These balloons need networks’ co-operation to function, we’re all going to have to work together on this,” he said.

He said Google expects half a billion people in emerging markets worldwide, most of them in Asia, to have Internet access “between now and 2015.”

“These people will drive this transformation even faster. They will not have all the desktop-based habits we’ve developed over the past 10 years,” he added.

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  • John Fereira

    Malabo sa Pinas yan as long as we have PLDT monopoly di yan papasa sa Congress need a franchise to operate. All almost all congresman are funded or fed by PLDT so no way it will materialize in the Philippines.

    But that is a superb technology.

  • farmerpo

    Where to get the antennae to receive the Loon signal?

  • ako_to

    uh uh..wait until China makes noise about this regarding national security per se.

  • JanofVA

    Balloon??? Are you kidding me???

  • disqus_ZrxaGjUzMQ

    Prices of Wifi in Philippines will drop for sure once GOOGLE INTERNET invade Philippine soon

    Philippine Wifi will drop to $10 a month

    • kangsongdaeguk

      “GOOGLE INTERNET invade Philippine soon”

      They can’t even invade USA. Asa pa.
      And furthermore, mataas po latency ng ganitong setup. Not suitable for VoIP, or those in the likes of Yahoo! Messenger, Skype.

  • WeAry_Bat

    If ever in a one in a billion chance that balloon goes down in the backyard, then I would have free Internet access by attaching tracking antennas and splicing directly a router.

    But for that to fall within my area means in that time, the balloons are all over the world so it would be a bit useless.

    A man decided to make a deal with a bank. He would go into suspended animation while his P100,000 would become P1,000,000 in 50 years.

    When he woke up, he discovered one piece of pandesal was P1,000,000.

    • kangsongdaeguk

      I doubt. Looks like those balloons are just satellites. With them in your backyard, how can it connect to the Internet?

      • WeAry_Bat

        Antennas attached to equipment and tracking their fellow balloons. They are a network grid, with two or more close beside a ground antenna. Hm, I suppose the tracking antennas will be for downstream but I would have to route requests upstream through cable/dsl.

      • kangsongdaeguk

        Ha? Ang labo. But anyway “tracking antennas will be for downstream but I would have to route requests upstream through cable/dsl.” is the very anti-thesis to your suggestion.

      • WeAry_Bat

        Actually that was the setup for satellite Internet in the late 90s for Phils, as satellite bandwidth is much greater.

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