Alphabet has begun to deploy balloons carrying LTE equipment to the Puerto Rico area. After Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands were hit by two major hurricanes a majority of the island is still without any form of basic communications. Alphabet is trying to change that. Here’s what you need to know.
The announcement came late last week in a blog post from the head of Project Loom, Alastair Westgrath. For those that do not know, Project Loom is a network of deployable stratospheric balloons, carrying LTE equipment, that are designed to bring internet connectivity to remote and rural parts of the world. Obviously, it can also be used to help provide temporary internet connectivity and communication to areas that are experiencing significant outages or if areas have been severely damaged from a natural disaster. AT&T is Loom’s official partner for the initiative, but involvement from the FCC, FAA, FEMA, other telecommunications companies, and Puerto Rican authorities are making the initiative possible.
Westgrath noted that:
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. Thanks to the Pan-American and Puerto Rican governments’ aviation authorities and air traffic controllers, who enabled us to send small teams of balloons from our launch site in Nevada to Puerto Rico. Thanks also to SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision who helped quickly set up essential ground infrastructure so that the balloons could get internet connectivity.
This is a serious undertaking for Loom. The company’s balloons were used all the way back in 2013 in Peru after extreme flooding. The effort in Puerto Rico, however, is much larger and at a much more rapid pace making any room for error almost nonexistent. Because such a large portion of Puerto Rico’s cellular infrastructure is still inoperable (~80%), the FCC gave Loom the go ahead to operate in the area to try and get citizens of Puerto Rico basic communication. If Loom can successfully get a majority of the island back online with basic communication, it would significantly help relief efforts.
What do you think about the ongoing struggles in Puerto Rico? Do you think we are doing enough as a world? Could we be using out technology in more efficient ways to help more people? Let myself and other readers know below.