Google has begun trials of the search giant’s reported floating wireless networks, called Project Loon, in the Christchurch area of New Zealand.
The trial is set to run this week and will see 50 testers with internet antenna attached to their homes attempting to pick up an internet signal from Google’s balloons, which will be in the area. There will be 30 balloons in the air in total, with this deployment being the largest attempted by the company. The pilot program is due to come to South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and Chile at a later stage.
In Google’s words Project Loon “…is experimental technology that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground, providing connection speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster.”
Google South Africa’s Country Director Luke Mckend said “If successful, Project Loon could be an affordable, scalable way to help address the digital divide in South Africa, a large country with many towns and communities still isolated from broadband Internet access. Last year’s Internet Matters study by World Wide Worx showed that the Internet contributes up to 2 percent (or R59-billion) of the country’s GDP. We think that more Internet access can boost economic development and job creation, which is highly pertinent in South Africa’s current climate.”