Project Loon, headed by Google, is a controversial plan to launch self-regulating high-altitude balloons that broadcast access points to WiFi Internet routers. The idea is that these balloons will be deployed in rural areas and developing nations, where the Internet is otherwise unavailable. While the benefits of increased Internet connectivity are obvious, Project Loon is plagued with a few problems that are less visible.
Some of Project Loon’s potential problems include the following: The stratosphere is considered part of a nation’s airspace, and entering it without clear permission could cause political problems. There is fear that the balloons might be used for spying. The NSA’s recently exposed Project PRISM confirmed that Google is already handing over some of their users’ personal information, leaving many wary of Google expanding their influence in such a way. Broadcasting high-speed Internet could cause interference with existing radio waves.
Google is already conducting tests in New Zealand on the balloons, with users claiming to have access to 3G Internet. Should the potential problems with the system be resolved, Google is hoping to broadcast the Internet to the rest of the two-thirds of the world currently without Internet access.
Project Loon Google’s balloons are lightweight and float up into the stratosphere, where they can provide Internet access to rural communities, disaster-struck areas, and developing countries, allowing for greater and better access to information. Each balloon provides coverage to an area of about 1,250 square kilometers. Users would access the Internet service through a special antenna attached to their home, which would bounce Internet signals from balloon to balloon until a connection is made.
VoIP and the Balloons
By pairing Internet technology with phone services, Google’s Project Loon could potentially make both Internet and phone service free services. Many people are already switching from traditional phone systems to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phones, which use the Internet to make and receive phone calls.
By avoiding the use of landlines, VoIP phone calls are much less expensive and far more efficient. As long as there is an Internet connection, VoIP calls can be made. Google’s plans to expand Internet access in such a way could see an expansion in the use of such phone calls, and potentially even replace existing telephone lines as well.