Alphabet’s Project Loon is delivering 4G LTE to Puerto Rico

By : |October 23, 2017 0

In the wake of the Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall on Puerto Rico, Alphabet’s Project Loon has deployed its LTE balloons over the region to help bring connectivity to areas of the island still experiencing the after-effects of  the hurricane.

According to Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth, the company is working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Authority, FEMA, and other cellular spectrum and aviation authorities to bring connectivity to parts of the ravaged island.

AT&T, Loon’s official partner, is helping the company bring its fleet of stratospheric helium balloons to the areas in question, which will enable residents with LTE-enabled smartphones to utilize text message and web browsing services.

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“We’ve never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace, and we’re grateful for the support of AT&T and the many other partners and organizations that have made this possible,” the team wrote in a its blog post. “Thanks to the Pan-American and Puerto Rican governments’ aviation authorities and air traffic controllers, who enabled us to send small teams of balloons from our launch site in Nevada to Puerto Rico. Thanks also to SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision who helped quickly set up essential ground infrastructure so that the balloons could get internet connectivity.”

According to Project Loon, each balloon can provide coverage across up to 5,000 sq/km, so it hopes to cover most of the island. The access is provided using LTE band 8, and should work for AT&T customers using devices like most recent iPhones (they will need an update first), Galaxy devices (from the S6 on), Moto G, Motorola Z2 Force, plus the BlackBerry Passport and KEYone.

This is the second time Project Loon has played a part in disaster recovery, after it helped provide service in Peru (where it was already testing) after extreme flooding back in May of last year.

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