Project Loon by Google Will Deliver Cell Coverage in Puerto Rico

PM ET FCC Let's Alphabet's Balloon Borne'Net Fly Looks to help communications-challenged Puerto Rico

PM ET FCC Let's Alphabet's Balloon Borne'Net Fly Looks to help communications-challenged Puerto Rico

The US Federal Communications Commission on Friday, October 6 (October 7, Manila time), granted Alphabet's Project Loon an experimental license for operations in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Project Loon is a network of balloons that provides internet connectivity to users on the ground, led by Google parent company Alphabet.

More than two weeks after the storm, about 82% of the island is still without cell service, the FCC said Saturday.

Earlier, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with an emphasis on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Because of that, said the FCC chair, innovative approaches must be taken to help to restore connectivity in Puerto Rico.

A team of tech giants are hoping to provide some electronic relief after Puerto Rico's electric grid and communications infrastructure were devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico is still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, with communications a particular problem. They need to connect to a telecommunications system on the ground.

The private companies have stepped up to the plate in Puerto Rico as the Trump administration faces continued criticism for its slow response to the disaster.

"In March, Peru was battered by extreme rains and flooding, with the government declaring more than 800 provinces to be in a state of emergency". Its main goal is to provide mobile connectivity to disaster and rural areas through weather balloons with fitted with cell radios.

Another potential hiccup in rolling out LTE via Loon balloons high in the sky is that some phones might need to be updated to allow them to operate on Band 8, which is required for Loon.

Loon's deployment to the US territories won't be the project's first rodeo; it has been tested over the years in multiple countries, including Brazil, New Zealand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and France, among others. Alphabet says it is developing temporary software fixes over the air for some devices, such as LG, Samsung and Apple.

In a statement given to Engadget, a spokesperson for Alphabet's X lab said the team needs to work with a partner network of a local telecom, like Telefonica, to make it all work.

"'Loon' needs to be integrated with a telco partner's network, the balloons cannot do it alone", an Alphabet spokesperson was quoted as saying.

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