Project Loon Puerto Rico

Screengrab via Project Loon/YouTube

Alphabet plans to fly balloons over Puerto Rico to restore cell phone service

This could cover the entire island.


Josh Katzowitz


With Puerto Rico still reeling from Hurricane Maria, the tech community continues to find ways to help.

On the heels of Tesla’s Elon Musk offer to help solve the island’s power problem, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission to fly balloons over the island that would help replace the cellphone towers that were blown over by the hurricane.

According to Wired, Project Loon—which is described as “a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide”—would allow Puerto Rico residents to get voice and data service.

Alphabet will use 30 Loon balloons to float more than 12 miles above the ground that will help connect the island’s wireless networks to users’ phones. Each balloon can serve almost 2,000 square miles, and according to reports, that should be enough for service all over the island and perhaps portions of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As Wired points out, Alphabet used the balloons to provide phone service in Peru after flooding ravaged the country, but Puerto Rico might be a little tougher. “Things are a little more complicated because we’re starting from scratch,” an Alphabet spokesperson told Wired. “Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network—the balloons can’t do it alone.”

H/T Digital Trends

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