Published: Mon, October 09, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

Alphabet's Project Loon Will Help Restore Cell Service in Puerto Rico

Alphabet's Project Loon Will Help Restore Cell Service in Puerto Rico

Loon's deployment to the US territories won't be the project's first rodeo; it has been tested over the years in multiple countries, including Brazil, New Zealand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and France, among others.

Beside Facebook and Google, Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised Friday to ramp up production of solar-powered batteries that could help restore electricity. It's an interesting development, even though it took a natural disaster before regulators saw the merit in this concept.

The Alphabet's moonshot project uses high-flying helium-filled balloons, which are placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 18 km.

Loon, part of a series of futuristic projects out of Alphabet's "X" laboratory, was originally created to provide internet coverage in under-developed rural areas.

The FCC has approved an experimental license for Alphabet, Inc's Project Loon to attempt to restore wireless service to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico using its high-altitude balloons, according to FCC Chief of Staff Matthew Berry.

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It has been over two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the entire island of Puerto Rico. This is where Google's balloons come into the picture.

The Federal Communications Commission said Saturday that 82 percent of cell sites remain out in Puerto Rico; 58 percent are out of service in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A decision was rendered relatively quickly, and the outcome was positive.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed the island's infrastructure, where 83% of people remain uncommunicated with the world due to the heavy damage all telecom services sustained. Tech companies are leading the charge so far when it comes to rolling out temporary services. The FCC licence will allow X to fly balloons until April 4, 2018, though it remains unclear how much of the territories in question will be covered by the experiment.

Engadget added that it needed to integrate with a telecommunications partner's network in the Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to let the balloons provide voice and data service to a user's phone.

Google is stepping into the crisis in Puerto Rico to help out with some cutting edge technology that will provide emergency phone reception.

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