DoT may ask Google to do Loon trials

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on December 29, 2014 Published on December 29, 2014

Project Loon is a balloon-powered internet service

In a bid to promote broadband uptake in the country, the Centre is exploring multiple options, including asking US Internet giant Google to do trials of its Loon project in India.

Project Loon is a network of balloons travelling at the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas.

How it works

Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. In the stratosphere, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed. Loon balloons go where they’re needed by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel.

“By partnering with telecommunication companies to share spectrum, we’ve enabled people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. The signal is then passed across the balloon network and back down to the global Internet on Earth,” Google had said in an earlier blog post.

Pilot in New Zealand

Project Loon began in June 2013 with an experimental pilot in New Zealand, where a small group of Project Loon pioneers tested Loon technology. The results of the pilot test, as well as subsequent tests in New Zealand, California’s Central Valley and in Northeast Brazil, are being used to improve the technology in preparation for the next stages of the project.

Google is already in talks with the Centre on how to improve broadband infrastructure in the country. One of the other things being considered is the Google fibre services wherein in the Internet company could roll out a showcase project.

However, one of the issues that could come in the way is the existing licensing policy that governs telecom services. Players like Google would be more comfortable if they could do these initiatives without taking a licence from DoT. Therefore, the DoT is looking at whether Internet services in tier-2 and tier-3 cities can be allowed only through registration. A presentation has been made to the DoT proposing these measures to promote broadband in the country. Internet players such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft want to be part of the government's Digital India plan and have offered multiple ideas for enhancing Internet penetration.

For example, software major Microsoft has sought the government’s permission to use the TV spectrum band to provide broadband spectrum on a trial basis. The US firm, in a presentation to the Department of Telecom, has offered to partner with a public sector telecom company to showcase its technology as an alternative method of reaching Internet connectivity to villages in a cost-effective way.

White space tech

Microsoft has proposed to do this by tapping the unused gap in terrestrial TV spectrum bands, called white space. White space refers to spectrum allocated for broadcasting services but that remains unutilised.

Technically, this spectrum can be used with low-power devices, without causing interference to the broadcasting station.

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Published on December 29, 2014
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