Eight regional carriers said to be onboard for a six-month deployment.According to Wired, the FCC gave permission for 30 Project Loon balloons to fly over Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for up to six months.
Project Loon is the name for Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) ambitious project that provides cellular data capabilities from above. With thousands of cell towers decimated by Hurricane Maria, the balloons would provide needed communications for both affected residents and relief efforts.
Earlier this year, Project Loon was deployed to Peru after a series of devastating floods. Alphabet worked with Peruvian network Telefonica to help pass a signal to the ground and allocate the correct spectrum and services. In Puerto Rico, things are still in the planning stages. An Alphabet spokesperson told Wired:
Things are a little more complicated because we’re starting from scratch. Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network—the balloons can’t do it alone.
Loon balloons work by “relaying communications between Alphabet’s own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users’ handsets.” Wired reports that eight regional wireless carriers in Puerto Rico have approved of the arrangement, so it looks like plans are off to a good start.