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Google may abandon Sri Lanka balloon trials over legal hitch

ECONOMYNEXT – Google might abandon plans to do trial balloon flights in Sri Lanka under its Project Loon aerial wireless network because of international legal issues over spectrum allocation, Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando said.

“Google is now looking at moving their pilot project to another country,” Fernando told a news conference.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka had been asked to release 10 MHz Pair in the 700 band spectrum for a period not exceeding 12 months to enable the trials.

But the TRCSL, having sought clarification from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), has informed Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) that the frequencies needed cannot be released for the proposed test of Google Loon, Fernando said.

ICTA had now sought advice from Sri Lanka’s Attorney General on how to proceed.

But the delay might prompt Google to shift the pilot project to another country, Fernando said.

He said the costs of the tests were to be borne by Google.

“The government did not pay a cent. The government has not signed any agreement with Google Loon, nor sold spectrum nor given any license,” Fernando said. “They only signed an agreement with ICTA to facilitate the balloon tests. The next step was to allocate spectrum for the tests,” he added. “Goggle is very ready. Unfortunately, there’s now a stumbling block.”

Both Sri Lanka and Google were lobbying the ITU to get permission to use specrum for the tests, Fernando said.

The Google Loon Project aims to make high-speed internet accessible to as many people as possible and at a lower cost.





With Google Loon, 4G LTE, a wireless communications standard that provides much higher speeds, was to be available islandwide.

Google aimed to have several radar-controlled balloons airborne at the same time to provide uninterrupted coverage, flying at an altitude of 75,000 feet, far above the 35,000 feet cruising height of airliners.
(COLOMBO, Feb 16, 2017)

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