Google flies Internet balloons in stratosphere for a “network in the sky”

Googlers prepare to launch an Internet balloon.

Google this week launched 30 balloons into the stratosphere in the first step toward creating what it calls a “network in the sky” that could eventually bring “balloon-powered Internet [to] everyone.”

Dubbed “Project Loon,” Google’s balloon-based wireless networks aim to bring 3G-like speed to what Google says are the “2 out of every 3 people on Earth” who lack a fast, affordable Internet connection. Google’s plan has been rumored for weeks. As we wrote earlier this month, balloon-based communications are well established for military communications and have been proposed for public safety use in disaster areas. Google could be the first to make balloon-based networks widely used for commercial Internet access.

Google is starting small and admits its system is just in the experimental stages. Google said the 30 balloons launched this week were sent into the air “from the Tekapo area of New Zealand’s South Island” and that a group of 50 pilot testers have been equipped with “special Internet antennas” to try to connect to the network. Google made the announcement late Friday night in the US, Saturday in New Zealand time.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars Technica » Technology Lab