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Sri Lanka inks deal for Google Loon broadband floating ‘telecom towers’

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has signed a deal to deploy Google Loon high altitude ‘floating telecom tower’ balloons full broadband internet coverage to the entire country, officials said.

"Hopefully in a few months every person and every device on the island will be covered by 3G (third generation," Deputy Economic Policy Minister Harsha de Silva said in his twitter feed.

Sri Lanka’s Telecom Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the Google Loon balloons will cover every village from Dondra to Point Pedro, in reference to the northernmost and Southernmost points in the island.

"…Sri Lanka is on its way to becoming the very first country in the world to have network connectivity cover the entire country," he said.

"Allow me to conclude by saying that I am proud to declare that we are at the cusp of a reclaiming our heritage of being connected to each other and connected to the world. In a few months we will truly be able to say: Sri Lanka. Covered."

The deal was signed in Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremsinghe’s office in Colombo with Google Loon Team Leader Mike Cassidy visiting Sri Lanka.

Deputy Investment Promotions Minister Eran Wickremeratne told EconomyNext that each ballon could cover about 5,000 square kilometres and with a little over a dozen the entire country could be covered.

"They have a finite lifetime and you have to keep sending them up," he said. "So coverage is one side, access also means the cost, which has to be affordable."

The Google Loon balloons have LTE standard transceivers which can connect to cell phone networks filling gaps in their networks.

"Service providers will enter in to agreements with "floating cell towers" that will be shared bringing down transmission costs leading to further reductions in cost of service provision," de Silva said.





"This should give more space for them to improve technology, content and service.

"All in all I feel today’s agreement will certainly provide a huge boost to our game plan to create a knowledge based highly competitive social market economy that will help every household achieve their own dreams.

Cell phone signals generally propagate on a line of sight basis and there can be gaps in mountainous areas where it is physically not possible or in other sparsely populated or wilderness areas where it does not make economic sense to cover.

Google Loon balloons are expected to navigate in the stratosphere and fill gaps in coverage.

Sri Lanka’s mobile and fixed phones now exceed the population but until the mid-1990 Sri Lankans had to wait 15 to 20 years to get a phone. Minister Samaraweera, privatized the state telecom monopoly and invited other private firms to set up mobile and fixed networks, giving freedom to people and making the economy more efficient. Tarriffs have since plummetted. (Colombo/July28/2015 – Upate III)


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