Google’s Internet initiative Project Loon faces critical challenges

Project Loon by Google
Alphabet (Google) will face a number of challenges in the initial execution stages of Project Loon, a global program for unleashing the potential of Internet, said ABI Research.

Alphabet recently tied up with Indonesia telecom operators to announce a test project to determine the feasibility of Project Loon.

Google, the global Internet search engine major, kicked off the Project Loon with a pilot test in June 2013 by launching 30 solar-powered helium balloons from New Zealand’s South Island and beamed Internet to a small group of pilot testers.

Project Loon aims to create an aerial wireless network by releasing solar-powered helium balloons into the stratosphere. Project Loon’s test system will operate on 900 MHz spectrum, allowing users to gain access to coverage through commercial LTE smartphones.

Recently, Ericsson Mobility Report 2015 said total mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a CAGR of around 45 percent due to the rising number of LTE smartphones, and increasing data consumption per subscriber. This is forecast to result in a ten-fold increase in total traffic for all devices by the end of 2021.

Project Loon and hurdles
Project Loon and hurdles
ABI Research said Alphabet will need to determine how to make this project economically feasible for low density, economically constricted areas. Can this project deliver mobile broadband service at ordinary mobile cellular service prices or lower?

Project Loon’s systems are currently set to generate 100 watts from solar power and will impose strict power limits on both the transmitter and the on-board electronics, making viability even more challenging, said ABI Research.

ABI Research said the challenge lies in gaining enough subscribers per balloon for economic viability without overloading the system.

Challenges include developing algorithms to appropriately map balloon positions, determining a good strategy to deal with inclement weather and addressing the concern of relying on the non-renewable resource, helium, among other challenges.

“If Project Loon is economically successful, it may have a five to ten year project lifetime as the global population continues to urbanize and 4G networks migrate outward,” said Joe Hoffman, vice president of Strategic Technology at ABI Research.

Ericsson says more than 90 percent of the world´s population will be covered by mobile broadband networks by 2021. Telecom industry body ITU says the number of Internet users by 2015 will be 3.17 billion and 4 billion by 2020.

Google’s Project Loon aims to reach the next five billion people who currently don’t have Internet access. Project Loon tested its newest LTE radio technology at a rural Brazilian school, Linoca Gayoso, that had never before had Internet access.

Baburajan K
[email protected]