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Google Bring Project Loon to Sri Lanka

With all eyes on Facebook, it can be easy to forget that the development of internet broadcasting services for developing nations is actually a two horse race. It might be a little harder to forget now, because Google just collected a nitro-boost. Or a mushroom... Or a blue balloon... Actually that one is the most fitting.

Whilst the boys in blue have been tinkering away with their mobile service, Google have started to roll out their version of airborne internet - Project Loon. It's been in the works for some time and Facebook have been making developments in the same direction with their solar powered monster-drones but those are nowhere near ready to be implemented. Google, meanwhile, have made a deal with officials from Sri Lanka to start launching their high-tech internet balloons.

There have been a couple of testing launches elsewhere, one at Google's secret testing facility in 2011 and another in New Zealand in 2013, both yielded promising results, but the Sri Lankan launch represents the first proper attempt to use them to increase global connectivity. The balloons will be launched region by region over a period of months, until the entire of the island is covered by the 3G broadcasting floaters.

Currently, only about 3 or 4 million Sri Lankan citizens have access to any kind of internet, but with this initiative it should soon be available to the entire 20 million strong population, a massive boon to the economy and development of the small nation. It will also be a valuable test of how well the much-lauded concept actually works in practise. 

The balloons themselves are designed to stay at around 18-25 km in the air, but they can alter their altitude to account for changing wind or weather conditions, if needs be. They stand, when inflated, at a rather alarming 12 meters high and 15 meters across, which at least makes birds less likely to fly into them by accident. They rely on connectivity between each other in order to broadcast a strong signal as the balloons 'talk' to each other using low latency pings. They can stay in the air for around 100 days at a time. 

A few of them have crashed in past incidents but no-one has ever been hurt, being that they probably come down pretty slowly and the actual hard-wearing components (the box and solar panel) only weigh as much as a sack of potatoes. This is well worth keeping an eye on, as it could end up being one of the most significant forward steps in connectivity in years.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Google Bring Project Loon to Sri Lanka Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, August 04, 2015 Rating: 5
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