FCC gives Google's broadband balloons 'experimental license' in Puerto Rico

Project Loon gets its chance to beam relief broadband

By Simon Sharwood, APAC Editor

Posted in Emergent Tech, 9th October 2017 06:02 GMT

Alphabet's Project Loon broadband balloons will be allowed to attempt broadband services in Puerto Rico, as the unincorporated United States territory continues to recover from hurricane damage.

Project Loon uses balloons that reach around 65,000 feet above sea level, from where they beam LTE signals back to Earth. The balloons are solar-powered and can stay aloft for up to 100 days at a time.

The project's been tested in Chile and New Zealand, with mixed results. That's not stopped other locales asking for their turn, among them Goa in India and Sri Lanka.

Now the United States' Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given the project an “experimental license” to “help provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico.”

“More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services,” said FCC Chair Ajit Pai. “That’s why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. Project Loon is one such approach.”

“I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort’s chances of success.”

The FCC has already waived regulations for infrastructure like masts and towers, to ensure that red tape doesn't get in the way of restoring telecoms services on the island. Letting Loon loose on the island is therefore not unexpected.

Alphabet's various sites and social feeds are silent on the licence or how Loon might deliver. But it has its work cut out, as The Register understands local carriers have not had much if anything to do with the project and would therefore need to get up to speed in a hurry.

On the upside, Project Loon conducted tests in Puerto Rico in 2016 and FlightRadar 24 plots a Loon balloon over the island. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily


More from The Register

Mythical broadband speeds to plummet in crackdown on ISP ads

If I hear 'up to' one more time...

EE Business Broadband digital transformation: Portal offline until July

You guys OK with paper print-outs for the next eight months?

EE unveils shoebox-sized router to boost Brit bumpkin broadband

Speeds of 100Mbps to reach rural areas – for a fee

New York lobs $210m at telcos to hook up 120k homes, businesses with bumpkin broadband

Funny story – Verizon didn't care until they were told other ISPs might do it

Well done, UK.gov. You hit superfast broadband target (by handing almost the entire project to BT)

95% of UK penetrated = feat of engineering, hoots Openreach

A million UK homes still get crappy broadband speeds, groans Ofcom

Some 4% of properties trundle below 10Mbps

Funnily enough, small-town broadband cheaper than big cable packages, say Harvard eggheads

Why can't we have this in more places? Oh, right, lobbyists

Brit folk STILL not getting advertised broadband speeds – survey

The faster the claim, the bigger the disappointment

British broadband is confusing and speeds are crap, says survey

See, it's not just Grant Shapps who gets it mixed up

Ads watchdog tells Plusnet: There's no way unlimited business broadband costs £4.50

If that were the case, you might actually Do Us Proud