Google Loon: Conquering the Stratosphere with an Internet Balloon Project

July 1, 2014

1:30 pm

Google has been the undisputed search engine leader, leaving way behind its pseudo competitors Yahoo! and Bing. Even the Russian (Yandex) and Chinese (Baidu) preferred search engines cannot match Google’s usage. However, it seems that the online space has become a far too small scene for Google’s growth plans, and they’ve decided to reach for the skies. Literally!

Project Loon is a toddler, but it already shows some pretty impressive results. A year ago, Google started a balloon Internet experiment and began releasing a network of balloons into the stratosphere. Officially, this project is said to have the most generous and philanthropic aim, namely to provide Internet to rural and remote areas.

During the first tests, the balloons only lasted for a few days; however, their endurance grew to two months on average after being subjected to some continual improvements. The harsh weather fluctuations are considered to be the major reason for their short lifespan. The high atmospheric pressure gradually causes small leaks in the balloons’ skin and creates a huge challenge for the balloon designers.

When it comes to Internet connection speed, the Loon Internet could be caught by a ground antenna and provide up to a 22 MB/second Internet connection. You could also connect with your mobile and enjoy 5 MB/s wireless Internet.

By upgrading the balloons, Google is gradually developing a more stable plan to monetize their innovative project. In covering the “dead spots,” Google could very well turn into an alternative Internet Service Provider that could eventually monopolize even this highly fragmented market niche. Interestingly enough, the telecommunications companies do not see Google as a threat and gladly cooperate, expressing their growing interest in entering a partnership with them.

With the great speed of technology progress, it won’t be long before we see whether Project Loon will pose any hidden threats to the world as we know it. Having Google balloons floating over international country borders might not be as well received as initially expected. Even if the stratosphere sovereignty laws might be a bit vague, they are still kind of implied – and there might be countries that would mind offering their space to random trespassing “aircrafts.”

Furthermore, government involvement in the project (New Zealand Prime Minister John Key took part in the launching ceremony, and US military troops assisted Google when trying to recover lost balloons) poses a whole new set of questions on privacy and data collection. The search engine has been facing serious criticism on its use of personal data for awhile now, and this new industry expansion might take them one step away from resolving the trust issue with users.

One interesting detail to add to the picture is the latest Google acquisition of Skybox Imaging (a low-cost satellite manufacturer). The know-how of the company is expected to contribute to Google’s “mapping operations,” as well as the quality of the Internet connection offered by the search engine.

So we are talking about world mapping satellite technology, combined with worldwide Internet connectivity by the leading search engine, topped with government standing by – I’ll leave it to your discretion as to whether the pros of Project Loon outweigh the cons.


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Nevyana Karakasheva is an online marketer at OptiLocal, an SEO agency focusing on Local SEO. Her posts aim at helping SMBs manage the challenges of building up their online reputation, increasing their website traffic and improving their rankings in the search engines.