Project Loon LTE balloons restore some communications in Puerto Rico

Project Loon LTE balloons restore some communications in Puerto Rico

This is also and the first time Alphabet has turned on Project Loon in the United States.

About a month after Hurricane Maria's devastating landfall on Puerto Rico, and a couple of weeks after the FCC gave clearance, Project Loon is bringing wireless internet to people on the island.

Alphabet said this was "the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we're still learning how best to do this".

The balloons move depending on wind currents, which means the Project Loon team has to "get familiar with the constantly shifting winds" on the island to connect people for as long as possible, Westgarth said. It is part of an innovation lab within Alphabet that the company calls X, previously known as Google X.

Now that Project Loon is rolling out, the people who are in stricken areas can expect to see services that enable them to send text messages and access the internet for limited browsing.

Several more balloons are on their way from Nevada, and Google has been authorized by the Federal Communications Commission to send up to 30 balloons to serve the hard-hit area.

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A Project Loon balloon on its way to Puerto Rico from Nevada.

Loon made a point to thank the following entities as well: High Tech Communications Services, MilkyWay Communications, North Sight Communications, PDV Spectrum Holding Company, Space Data Spectrum Holdings, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority/PREPA Networks, Sensus Spectrum and Spok.

"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", he added. "Project Loon is still an experimental technology and we're not quite sure how well it will work".

Loon was granted an experimental license by the FCC earlier this month to help provide emergency cellular service in the region, but it wasn't clear how much the balloons would help because they still needed a telco partner with which to integrate. Additionally, during the emergency response to the flood, O3B networks, Level 3 and Ecologistica Peru helped quickly set up ground stations (which connect the balloons to the Internet's backbone) in areas with complete outages.

The balloons, which are now being deployed in a post-disaster setting for the second time, typically stay in the stratosphere for 100 days.

"'Loon' needs to be integrated with a telco partner's network, the balloons can not do it alone", an Alphabet spokesperson was quoted as saying.

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