Loon Internet Balloons to Launch in Puerto Rico


Alphabet Inc., which controls Google, obtained authorization from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy the devices - developed from 2013 as part of a project known as "Loon". The license extends from October 6th until April 4th, 2018, and it was granted to Ben Wojtowicz, a software engineer and member of Alphabet's X lab who works on Project Loon. Part of Google owner Alphabet's efforts to grow its user base by bringing connectivity to regions now disconnected and originally developed for rural regions, Project Loon involves the use of weather balloons to float mesh networking devices above the region to be connected.

"Overall, 81.7 percent (virtually no change from 81.9 percent yesterday) of cell sites are out of service", the FCC stated in a report on the island's recovery efforts. "Project Loon is one such approach", Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Google said:,"We need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. Using this data, our software algorithms are able to determine which altitude has a wind pattern that gives us the best chance of keeping our balloons close to the areas where we want them", Project Loon said at the time.

The balloons interface with a cellular provider's network and expand connectivity between each successive balloon. Each balloon would hover about 12 miles off the ground and provide voice and data coverage for roughly 2,000 square miles (5,000 square kilometers).

Project Loon must be integrated with the network of a cellular company in order to provide service, and Alphabet is "making solid progress on this next step", the spokesperson said.

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Project Loon has been used in emergencies before, including months ago during heavy flooding in Peru. In the case of Peru, Project Loon was already in the middle of tests with Telefonica in the country when disaster struck.

Its balloons float 20km high in the stratosphere.

Alphabet will coordinate with networks operating in the British Virgin Islands so that interference is minimized.

"'Loon' needs to be integrated with a telco partner's network, the balloons cannot do it alone", an Alphabet spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Mr Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and "increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas".