Google may get government permission to test Project Loon in India
Last year, Google had announced expansion of its Project Loon in India. Google’s ambitious plan to provide Internet connections using high-altitude balloons, had hit several hurdles in India. Google’s Project Loon is a breakthrough technological innovation from Google that promises to deliver internet to the geographically isolated areas of the world that cannot be covered by covered by the major carriers for various reasons.
We have covered Project Loon extensively on this blog. Here, you will find all the details of Project Loon– what it is, how it works and the project’s amazing benefits. Basically, it involves sending large balloons in the air, equipped with wireless equipment, and capable of providing internet connectivity to the areas below them – for absolutely free.
Project Loon was successfully launched in Indonesia, with three major carriers testing Google’s balloons. According to reports, Project Loon’s next test location is going to be India. Project Loon India is great news for the country. According to an Economic Times report, Google’s Project Loon would be given a four-day window to conduct its tests in India. The location for the pilot tests are expected to be in the States of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Some of the months of discussions with the Indian government, Google seems to be finally getting closer to roll out its Project Loon in India.
Alphabet is the holding company of Google and Nest Labs – which has been testing the balloons for a couple of years now. In this time, the Project has gone from strength to strength. The balloons are more accurate than before, are capable of spending more time in the air and have much bigger internet ranges. Indeed, the day is not far when Google’s internet balloons may be used as an alternative to conventional networking.
The government of India has a very ambitious initiative called Digital India and aims to provide internet access to all 1.26 billion citizens of the country. But it’s not possible for the traditional carriers to provide internet connectivity to every single region in India, as there are many parts of India which are geographically distant and are inaccessible to telecom carriers. The networking infrastructure in India is extremely underdeveloped.
So, India has one of the lowest internet adoption rates in the world. Only 17 percent of the nation’s population has access to the internet, according to the World Bank. Because of the poor networking infrastructure, broadband rates in India are really very high, relative to the per capita income.
Project Loon India can help overcome this problem by beaming satellite data to mobile devices for a very low cost, if not for free. That’s why the Indian government sees such tremendous potential in Google’s Project Loon. The Indian government is in close contact with Google and has been working to bring Google’s pilot project to India as soon as possible.
Talks are on between the Indian government and Google, and this has been confirmed by both parties. But no official announcement has been made as yet because the matter is still under consideration.
An Indian government sources said, “Google approached [the] government to set up the Loon project and drone-based Internet transmission. Government has approved testing of Loon project only as of now. A committee under chairmanship of Secretary, Department of IT and Telecom has been formed to work on it.”
The sources added, “The Department of IT and Telecom committee is looking at various aspects to facilitate test like identifying locations, coordination with various agencies. Under the drone project, Google had plans to transmit Internet on ground using 8 big solar powered drones, but that has not been cleared by government yet.”
Initially, the plan is for India’s biggest telecom company, the government controlled BSNL, to enter into a partnership with Google by using a broadband spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band range. Project Loon is capable of offering 4G services and could eventually replace mobile towers – as the balloons transmit signals directly to the 4G mobile phones.
Each Google balloon uses 4G or LTE technology and offers connectivity to an area of 1256 sq. km. , which is huge. Google makes use of solar and wind energy to power the electronic equipment in the balloon all through the day, for around 270 days at a stretch. The plan is for Google to operate as a technology service provider and not as an ISP or internet service provider – which is a crucial difference.
Few Things That You Need to Know About Google’s Project Loon:
Google approached various Indian ministries including aviation and IT with the proposal last year, but the project was shot down owing to concerns over the spectrum bandwidth. Google’s Project Loon needs 700MHz to 900MHz spectrum bands to provide connectivity but that spectrum band is already occupied by telecom service providers and could lead to interference with cellular transmissions.
Telecom operators have urged the Telecom ministry to ensure that broadcast frequencies are allotted only through allocation. The IT ministry feared the Google’s Project Loon could interfere with existing cellular networks.
Further, the Civil Aviation ministry had expressed fears that interference of the balloons with flight paths.
The Home ministry raised suspicions on surveillance and also the Defense ministry had problems with the balloons floating over military establishments.
Facebook is also pursuing similar aspirations through their solar-powered drones, lasers and satellites, Microsoft is looking at its TV white space transmissions, the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands (usually set aside for television) for providing broadband connections. Currently, it is running pilots in 10 countries across the world.
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