Big Tech has big plans to help reconnect Puerto Rico


The US Federal Communications Commission said late on Friday it had approved Alphabet's application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico through balloons.

With all of the issues going on in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the FCC fast-tracked 60 x Project Loon internet ballons to fly over both countries for six months. Loon was started as a Google X Labs venture to bring mobile connectivity to rural and disaster areas via weather balloons equipped with cell radios. "Project Loon is one such approach. I'm glad the FCC was able to grant this experimental license with dispatch and I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort's chances of success".

The balloons are sent 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the Earth's surface, where they can remain autonomously for over 100 days.

Responding to a tweet asking if Tesla could help, chief executive Elon Musk answered: "The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too".

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The giant balloons, which look like jellyfish, are actually solar-powered internet-transmitting balloons, filled with lighter than air gas.

Most of the recovery news has rightly focused on the hard journey to get Puerto Rico's power grid back online.

The Project Loon team is planning to deploy several balloons beneath the sky for an emergency LTE service, which will be using Band 8 LTE. According to Mashable, the Peruvian project leader said the balloons sent 160 GB of data as they floated over an area about the size of Sweden, "enough data to send and receive around 30 million WhatsApp messages, or 2 million emails". "We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand". In a statement given to tech site Engadget, an Alphabet spokesperson said that Project Loon needs to integrate with an existing telco network to deliver internet signals to people's devices.