Google loon to fill Sri Lanka coverage gaps, billed by existing operators
ECONOMYNEXT – Broadband internet from ‘Google Loon’ floating telecom transmitters will be available and billed through existing operators but customers will also be able to choose the service, an official said.
Google balloons now being tested over Sri Lanka will beam a LTE (Long Term Evolution) or ‘4G’ broadband that is already being used by operators.
In New Zealand, Google was testing WiFi service with a unit of Vodafone.
Subscribers who use the service in Sri Lanka will remain with the existing operator and be billed by the firm, Muhunthan Canagey, head of Sri Lanka’s Information Communications Technology Agency said.
Google’s service will fill gaps in the broadband coverage of operators but customers will also be able to choose the service through an app, he said.
Costs of the floating balloons is expected to be about a third of ground stations, he said.
The Google balloons are sent up to the stratosphere and operate around 75,000 feet above ground (commercial aircraft usually fly below 40,000 feet.
A few balloons strung together can provide service to customers on the ground or backhaul capacity to individual balloons or the ground based networks.
The core idea behind the success of so-called ‘cellular networks’ are multiple base stations which re-use frequencies within a ‘cell’ covered by a low-power transmitter and not a few base stations covering a large area.
In built up areas with many customers, cells (coverage area of a base station) become increasingly smaller and frequencies can be re-used, providing circuits of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of customers.
But google has only a few balloons with each covering a relatively large area though populations in mountainous areas may be low.
Canagey says google balloons have solved the hurdle by ‘beam’ signals to the ground and will be able to re-use spectrum in different directions rather than the omnidirectional broadcasting used by ground stations.
The google loon station will also pool spectrum from multiple operators and be able to make use of frequencies that would have been lying idle among base stations of different operators in a given area, he said.
Sri Lankan operators collectively will be able to buy 10 percent of the Google joint venture company that will eventually operate the floating base station network if they want to.
Sri Lanka has wide mobile phone coverage over most of the island and fast, relatively affordable 3G broadband in urban areas due to privatization of telecoms from the early 1990s.
Google’s helium filled balloons are made up of a thin and light material which develop leaks and has be brought down to the ground from time to time and replaced with new balloons.
The balloons are slowly brought down gradually deflating and it also has a parachute if the descent is too fast.
At the moment Google says its balloons can stay aloft for as much as 100 days. According to published data specs of grit and other foreign material that may touch the balloon reduces it lifetime. (Colombo/Feb23/2016)