Google’s Loon team wants Telco leases, but that’s a tricky offer

May 7, 2014
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Google’s Loon team wants Telco leases, but that’s a tricky offer

Google’s ambitious Loon project is designed to connect the world, specifically in places where connectivity is nearly impossible via traditional methods. By controlling the sky, Google hopes to bring not only a connection, but one that’s 3G or better to “two out of every three people on Earth”. Even more ambitious, Google wants to lease their balloons to Telcos.


The plan was set forth when Google CEO Larry Page challenged the Loon team to do more. The original plan was to purchase spectrum, but that was largely fruitless, and time-consuming. Page didn’t want his team running through mud to get nowhere fast, so he challenged them — and they turned the tables.

Google X project lead Astro Teller spoke about it at TechCrunch Disrupt, telling the crowd how they now see their plan for connecting the world working:

We did come up with something that's way better than buying a relatively thin piece of harmonized spectrum that's now the way that Google Loon is going to function. Basically, by using the spectrum that already exists in each country, and then if you're a telco in some country, I come to you and I say, 'you're just going to lease the balloons when they pass over Argentina. It's your spectrum. You already have the spectrum.’

In that regard, Loon has the ability to forge a new path that’s mutually beneficial to various telcos the world over. If a carrier signs a “Loon lease”, they balloon can simply carry their spectrum when it passes overhead. Rural customers get a stronger signal, and carriers keep customers. The signal would hit the balloon, then back down to the comical red antennae on homes.

It sounds great, but the program is a slippery slope. What if the telco in question wants to alter a lease, effectively asking that a Loon linger in their area? We think of balloons as simply drifting along air currents, but Google has devised a fairly sophisticated system of guiding their balloons along. A carrier in Brazil wishing to offer some remote village a connection might just be willing to pay Google for the opportunity to reach them without a costly tower build-out.

It’s another way Google is keeping us tethered to the cloud; this time it’s just via a carrier, and dependent on balloons both parties have a vested interest in.

Via: Ars Technica


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