Project Loon LTE balloons restore some communications in Puerto Rico

Google's parent company has made internet balloons available in Puerto Rico, the first time it's offered Project Loon in the US

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Liberty Cablevision and SES Networks, for example, helped Project Loon get ground infrastructure set up so that the balloons could make connectivity available.

Project Loon is part of Alphabet's R&D unit known as X, the same unit that created self-driving cars. The high rise of the balloons allows it to cover more distances than cell towers and connects users to the internet with LTE smartphones. "The search giant announced some balloons from its "Project Loon" programme had been deployed over Puerto Rico, in an effort to provide people with limited internet access", CNET reported. Project Loon is now supporting basic communication and internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones.

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.

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A Loon balloon getting ready to take flight to Puerto Rico from our launch site in Nevada. The urgency in Puerto Rico really allows Alphabet's project to shine and prove itself viable. Westgarth explains that this was the first time the team had ever deployed its Project Loon connectivity "from scratch" at such a fast rate, a process made possible in part by help from AT&T and other entities.

Two weeks after Hurricane Irma slammed into the Caribbean islands, a second super-storm - Maria - devastated the U.S. territory on September 20, leaving the population of 3.4 million people without electricity or cellphone reception.

"We plan to continue to offer emergency internet connectivity in areas where it's needed for as long as it is useful and we're able to do so", said Westgarth.

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This is the second time Project Loon has been used in a large-scale way.

Each "Loon" balloon can serve up to 5,000 square kms so the fleet is expected to provide service over all of Puerto Rico and potentially parts of the US Virgin Islands. This isn't the first time Project Loon balloons have been used to restore basic communications following a disaster - that distinction goes to the team's work in Peru previous year following extensive flooding.

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