GOOGLE is bringing its audacious internet-transmitting balloons to Australia.
The company will test-fly 20 balloons in western Queensland in December in partnership with Telstra.
It’s the latest step in Project Loon, Google’s plan to beam internet to remote parts of the world via helium balloons that circle the globe on stratospheric winds.
The balloons carry antennas that can beam 4G-like signals to homes and phones 20km below.
For the trial, Telstra will supply base stations to communicate with the balloons and access to space on the radio spectrum. It follows initial trials above Christchurch in New Zealand in June last year. Google said at the time it was drawn to the area’s favourable stratospheric conditions.
The company’s ultimate goal is to have a ring of balloons circling the Earth, bringing internet to the estimated two-thirds of people who are presently unwired.
It’s also hoped the balloons could one day provide coverage to areas struck by natural disasters.
Project Loon has been in development since mid-2011 by scientists at Google X, the secretive lab also working on Google Glass and driverless cars.
The technology is especially attractive for developing countries because it might let them avoid having to lay costly underground fibre cabling.
How Project Loon works:
1. Web-connected base stations bounce signals up to the balloons, which float at about twice the altitude of passenger jets.
2. The signals hop forward from one balloon to the next.
3. Each balloon transmits internet signals down to an area more than twice the size of Canberra.
4. Card table-sized solar panel powers on-board gadgetry.
Balloons can stay airborne for about 100 days.
5. Plan is for a ring of balloons to circle the Earth on westerly stratospheric winds.