Only 2 million out of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people have an Internet connection. That’s less than 10 percent.

With the internet of things catching on fast in western world, it’s certain that we are headed towards a life that is more connected than ever. Yet, those 20 million people remain in the dark, their lives cut off from the vast networks whizzing around them. Google plans to change that.

With its latest project, code-named Google Loon Sri Lanka, Google plans to send vast, translucent balloons reminisce of the barrage balloons that protected London during WW2, fitted out with solar panels and gear that will enable them to bring Internet service to remote areas with no Wi-fi access. And it’s pioneering this feat of engineering in Sri Lanka.

Yet there remains a lot of controversy and uncertainty about the Google Loon Sri Lanka project: Namely, will it be free? If so, does it mean everyone gets free Wi-fi? What about existing ISPs?

The technology behind these oversized balloons is simple. An LTE Internet connection is beamed up to the nearest balloons, which will transmit it to the next. Together, they create a mesh network, each transmitting data to another until it reaches a base station in rural towns and villages, where the connection will be handed over to the local ISP, who will then distribute it to the villages from there.


Essentially, Google Loon Sri Lanka is eliminating the need for expensive cabling, and is actually handing over the final connection to local ISPs (Who will charge a fee, of course.), meaning that the existing users of the ISP won’t be able to connect to the system and use it for free.

It is interesting to see how Google Loon Sri Lanka project goes, if only for the fact that in time this method may also be used for cell phone networks, and whether it will just fade away like the majority of Google’s unusual projects.

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