Loon Internet Balloons to Launch in Puerto Rico


After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico's infrastructure, more than 75 percent of its cellphone towers remain offline, and power has yet to be restored to nearly 90 percent of the island.

It aims to temporarily re-establish Puerto Rico's cellular network - where 83% of cell sites were still out of service Friday, according to FCC figures.

Rather than try to bring traditional wireline or satellite internet into these areas, which can be quite costly, with Project Loon Google plans to set up a system of free-floating high-altitude balloons to create a network with a wider reach. Musk agreed. Hours later, he announced he was delaying the unveiling of Tesla's new semi-truck and diverting resources, in part to "increase battery production for Puerto Rico and other affected areas".

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"That's why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island", he added, urging wireless carriers to "cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort's chances of success".

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, 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.

That's where Project Loon comes in.

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The Federal Communications Commission has issued an "experimental license" to X, the moonshot outfit owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet, to try and provide service to the ailing island.

Giant floating balloons could help deliver internet and cell service to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

The Verge reported earlier that the objective of the experimental or special temporary authority is to support licensed wireless carriers' restoration of limited communication capability in some areas of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. It's not clear that Loon's connectivity will be compatible with all devices, though, and the company may have to provide an over-the-air software update to Apple and Samsung phones to make sure that they are compatible with the network. The balloons that were deployed in Peru, in fact, were launched from Puerto Rico.

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The balloons were used in March to bring connectivity to Peru after the country was hit by extreme rains and flooding.