Monday, 13 July 2015

Google already exploring ways to connect the rural population

Some of you may have already heard of the ambitious Project Loon by Google. The ultimate goal of Project Loon is to provide internet access to the 2 out of every 3 rural people in the world today who aren't connected yet to the Internet. This is a global initiative that Google hopes to eventually roll out world-wide. The video above shows a simple advantage that internet access can provide to a rural farmer in New Zealand's South Island. Something as regular as checking weather forecasts was a difficult task, until Google came along.

Google is a massively successful company and are one of the few in the world that can take on a project of this scale and complexity. The delivery method is through balloons, yes balloons and not to be confused with this past week’s news item of the lawn chair pilot from Calgary! The Google balloons are similar to weather balloons. The balloons carry Google's technology into the stratosphere, providing 40 square kilometres of coverage via an LTE signal. Currently, the balloons can stay afloat for 100 days until they make a controlled descent. Google has had to develop extensive support networks to make this project viable, including improved manufacturing, control centres, and mobile deployment teams.

Google works with local telecos (telecommunications companies) to deploy and provide coverage where it is most needed and to allow users to benefit from Project Loon through their existing mobile plans and devices. The balloons are essentially relays to extend existing networks, providing coverage in areas that could not be serviced through traditional methods. Connectivity gaps and line-of-sight are overcome with Project Loon.

Watch this video below for a more technical briefing on Project Loon.

Google has the capability to follow through on this technology. They have already invested a lot of money and many years of effort on this initiative. Just the fact that Google has invested this much in rural internet connectivity is an indication that they understand the benefit to connecting everyone. Whether it is for their own corporate benefit or for communication as a basic human right, connecting the remaining 2 out of 3 people who have no access to the Internet holds vast potential, not the least of which are benefits for education and food security around the globe. Of course, to extend existing networks there has to be robust and accessible networks to access via Project Loon. Rural users also have to be able to have access to affordable connections. In any case, Project Loon has taken up the challenge of levelling the playing field between urban and rural connectivity.

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