How giant balloons could restore wireless service in Puerto Rico

Francisco Martinez 9 a student at the public school Jose Facundo Cintron waits in line Sunday to get gasoline with his family in the town of Yabucoa after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico on September 20
Google to Provide Emergency Cell Service to Puerto Rico Via Balloons
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08 October, 2017

First up Google has just nabbed a temporary license for it to provide an emergency cell network across Puerto Rico using its Project Loon technology - that's where giant, floating balloons are used to get connectivity out to remote areas that lack the usual internet and cell tower infrastructure.

"The goal of the [Special Temporary Authority] is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria", the license reads.

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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With Puerto Rico still reeling from Hurricane Maria, the tech community continues to find ways to help.

Project Loon is certainly one of the more "out there" projects that being funded by Google's parent company Alphabet. The X team brings huge balloons over the required location with internet coverage made available for people n a specific rural area. As most of the smartphones are not capable of transcoding Band 8 LTE signals, the OEMs are necessarily required to push an OTA update for every smartphone in Puerto Rico. The company deployed balloons to Peru earlier this year after flooding destroyed homes and displaced thousands of people in that country. It's a different story for Puerto Rico. But Loon already had been working on network integration with a carrier there, Telefonica.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it had granted Alphabet Inc. permission to use solar power balloons to bring cellular service to the island, which has been left largely without power since Hurricane Maria hit last month. She added that "we've been making solid progress" on that next step.


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