Google’s Project Loon initiative, which aims to provide internet access to remote corners of the world, has teamed up with three mobile networks to begin testing balloon-powered internet over Indonesia in 2016.
The three mobile providers — Indosat, Telkomsel and XL Axiata — will work with Google to provide a continuous ring of connectivity around the nation. Currently, only around one in three of Indonesia’s 250 million residents are connected to the internet.
Google’s work in Indonesia forms part of its larger goal of bringing the power of the internet to millions of individuals, wherever they are, for the very first time.
Mike Cassidy, vice-president of Project Loon, said in a Google+ post earlier in the year: “One of the things we do is partner with local telco in every country.”
Google’s deal with the three Indonesian mobile networks is similar to the deal it struck with Vodafone in New Zealand and will allow the telecommunications companies to expand its network coverage.
Project Loon is Google’s attempt to release a global network of internet-providing high-altitude balloons.
The system works by allowing Loon balloons to ascend, like weather balloons, until they reach the stratosphere, where they drift higher than 18km, safely above the altitudes used for aviation.
The balloons that Google uses are capable of riding the wind to travel where they need to go. They also have the benefit of being able to coordinate with other balloons to provide stable coverage on the ground, and their electronics are entirely solar powered.
“Our mission control system allows us to track every balloon, and lets us optimally position the balloons to provide coverage exactly where people who need internet coverage are,” said Cassidy.
Google first revealed its plan to spread internet connectivity by releasing balloons into the atmosphere in June 2013, when about 30 of the balloons were launched from New Zealand.
Since then the project has been tested in New Mexico, Chile and Sri Lanka, and the team behind Project Loon plans to launch more than 300 balloons throughout 2016.
Cassidy said: “The technology is working; we’re getting close to the point where we can bring the internet to people around the world.”