Google Brings Cellular Service to Puerto Rico Using Balloons


The FCC said that 83 percent of all cell sites remain out of service while wireless companies are rolling out temporary service sites.

Tesla and Google are joining an effort to rebuild the island's infrastructure that also includes Facebook, which committed to send its connectivity staff to the island to help in recovery and reconstruction.

The FCC has provided consent to Alphabet's application, which included letters and emails from eight wireless carriers in Puerto Rico, for "Loon" to use their frequencies for disaster relief and to restore limited communications.

The Loon balloons work by travelling 20 km into the stratosphere where the winds are stratified -each layer of wind varies in direction and speed.

One of Alphabet's moonshot projects might help people in Puerto Rico regain LTE connectivity in their phones.

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago, Reuters reported.

Google parent company Alphabet offered to float its Project Loon balloons over the island, bringing Wi-Fi service to hard-to-reach places.

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"The goal of the [Special Temporary Authority] is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria", the license reads. The balloons are similar to a weather balloon but they have cellular equipment mounted to them to act as short-term mobile connection points.

In Puerto Rico, Google's innovation lab, X, is starting from scratch.

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

It is still unclear which parts of the island will receive Loon connectivity, but reports suggest that Google has been granted "emergency licence" to operate on the commonwealth until 4 April 2018.

We had also already integrated balloon powered internet into Telefonica's network which meant that they could serve their customers from our balloons. Earlier this year, X said balloons over Peru were able to provide key coverage as the country was plagued by floods. In the latter country, Project Loon was already testing with a local carrier before the nation encountered heavy flooding.

In Puerto Rico, however, X essentially had to start at square one. "We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand".