Bringing internet to remote regions by sending internet-enabled balloons into the stratosphere sure sounds like a wild idea, but it’s about to become a reality for the resident of Sri Lanka. The government of the island nation has just announced a partnership with Google that will bring affordable high-speed internet access to every inch of the country using the company’s Project Loon balloons.
Project Loon wouldn’t really be at home anywhere other than the Google X lab, the company’s secretive research arm from which all manner of left-field ideas have emerged, including glucose-monitoring contact lenses, delivery drones, Lego-like displays and a little venture known as Google Glass.
It’s not always easy to tell how serious Google is about some of these ambitious concepts, but it seems determined to make Project Loon a reality. The company’s vision is for a network of balloons floating in the stratosphere at around 20 km (12.4 mi) above the Earth’s surface. The balloons are equipped with solar panels and carry a box of electronics and communications gear underneath that provides LTE internet connectivity to an area on the ground around 40 km (25 mi) in diameter.
The announcement by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry this week of the partnership with Google will see Sri Lanka, which boasts an area of 65,610 sq km (25,332 sq mi), become the first country in the world to boast universal internet access via the high altitude balloons. Deployment of the balloons is set to begin in the coming months, with the launches expected to be completed by March, 2016.