Monday, October 9, 2017

Google's Broadband Balloons Descend on Puerto Rico -

Google has received FCC approval to use its Project Loon broadband balloon system to bring much-needed connectivity to Hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. The FCC has granted Google the authority to use existing spectrum on the island in the 900 MHz band, with the permission of local carriers already on the island. Project Loon uses hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft. Ground base stations sixty miles apart communicate with solar-powered radio transmitters affixed to the balloons that ride the 40th parallel.

There were some initial doubts that Google could keep the balloons afloat for long periods of time, but the company has made consistent, notable strides on that front -- last year indicating they'd kept balloons aloft for as long as six months.

The FCC was quick to note that the majority of cell towers remain out of service as efforts to clear obstructed roadways and restore power obviously take priority.

"Overall, 81.7 percent (virtually no change from 81.9 percent yesterday) of cell sites are out of service," the FCC stated in a report on the island's recovery efforts. "All counties in Puerto Rico, except Bayamon, Catano, Carolina, Guaynabo, San Juan, and Toa Baja, have greater than 75 percent of their cell sites out of service."

Loon was also put to work earlier this year to help bring connectivity to flood-damaged Peru.

"We're grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it's possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need," Google said of the effort. "To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network -- the balloons can't do it alone. We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand."

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