Google to bring 20 Project Loon balloons to Australia in further testing

17 Nov 2014

A Google Project Loon ballon. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Internet search giant Google is to expand its testing of its Project Loon internet balloons by flying 20 of the airborne transmitters over Queensland, Australia, in a partnership with telecoms company Telstra.

Google will be working with Telstra to provide the internet that will allow the helium balloons to circle the region’s skies to provide a 4G-like service to those below.

The end goal of the project is to provide developing regions of the world with internet access, particularly areas with difficult terrain or a lack of infrastructure.

Google had earlier revealed that in order to get its project ‘off the ground’, it was going to work with regional internet carriers, one of which would include Telstra in Australia.

Google had also recently conducted a test in Australia’s neighbour, New Zealand, over the city of Christchurch, because the company felt the region’s atmospheric conditions were favourable for early testing of the service.

However, both Google’s New Zealand trial and the first one undertaken in its native US have both proven to have gone less than smoothly. One of the balloons crashed into the sea off New Zealand and authorities rushed to the scene, believing it to be an aircraft, while the US balloon hit electricity cables.

SpaceX’s internet provision plan

Last week, space transport services company SpaceX announced its own plans to launch hundreds of microsatellites into orbit to beam internet connections down to the Earth.

Social networking giant Facebook is also running its own operation, known as the project, which will use solar-powered drones instead of helium balloons or microsatellites.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic