Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) plans to increase internet coverage to the 4.8 billion people around the world who are still not connected. The company has put 18 months of work into the secret project, known as Project Loon.
The project involved using helium balloons that sailed 12 miles above the Earth and was tested in New Zealand. As many as fifty testers participated in this trial run.
One of the first testers in this group was a farmer called Nimmo. He was able to use the internet for about 15 minutes before the balloon floated out of range. The Google technicians attached a basketball-sized receiver to Nimmo’s house, so he could receive the signal.
Even though Nimmo lives in a developed country, he cannot get broadband access because he lives in a rural area. Thus he is stuck paying bills as high as $1,000 a month for satellite internet. Many other people are in the same situation, and that is what Google is hoping to remedy.
This project would bring internet without having to install fiber-optic cables in places like Southeast Asia and Africa. There is no word yet as to what this would cost, or how much Google is investing in this project.
This is not the first time that balloons have been put to similar use. Recently, both government and aeronautical researchers have used tethered balloons to bounce internet signals to bases on Earth. Google plans to have its balloons float untethered in a line around the world, while Google employees adjust them as need be. Although even Google admitted the project was a bit out there, it might prove viable.