The FCC granted Alphabet's Project Loon, which delivers internet via balloons, an experimental license last month to help get Puerto Ricans online after Hurricane Maria decimated the island's infrastructure.
In a Medium blog post last month, Westgarth admitted, "Project Loon is still an experimental technology and we're not quite sure how well it will work, but we hope it helps get people the information and communication they need to get through this unimaginably hard time". The only drawback is that customers must have an LTE-enabled phone to access the aerial network, which is offering basic wireless connectivity for text messages, emails, and light internet browsing. More than forty percent of the locations in hit Puerto Rico are still without cell tower reception and out of service communications.
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The service is a part of Alphabet's X balloon-powered internet program called Project Loon, where it is transmitting internet services with the help of helium air balloons at disaster-stricken locations.
'We've never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace, and we're grateful for the support of AT&T and the many other partners and organizations that have made this possible, ' Westgarth writes. To keep them clustered over the island, the balloons are using computer algorithms to navigate the atmospheric conditions. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.
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Oxfam said it was also working to lower charges and fine more telecoms for poor behaviour. BT offshoot Plusnet and EE are also said to be joining.
Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area of around 25 miles (40km) in diameter using LTE, also referred to as 4G, technology.
In addition to Project Loon, telecommunication providers have been working to fix damaged cellular sites and towers on the ground.
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NASA has already been working to develop such technologies and help make "urban air mobility" (UAM) a reality, agency has said. The aircrafts will use a vertical takeoff and landing or VTOL.
The signals can then hop forward, from one balloon to the next, along a backbone of up to five balloons.