Google reckons its Loon balloons are going to be delivering a service within the next year, and has revealed that it's abandoned the radio kit it first tested in favour of LTE.
When it first started playing with its stratospheric connectivity in 2013, the Chocolate Factory would only reveal that it had a “3G-like” communications system in mind, operating in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.
Now, Google X boss Eric “Astro” Teller has told an MIT Technology Review conference the company wants to encircle the southern hemisphere with balloons by 2015, and says using LTE it's been able to deliver 22 Mbps to fixed antennas and 5 Mbps to mobile receivers.
Teller apparently told the EmTech audience that “in the next year or so we should have a semi-permanent ring of balloons somewhere in the southern hemisphere”.
He said the company has clocked up more than 2 million kilometres in testing, which to date has been conducted in conjunction with local carriers in New Zealand and Brazil.
In June 2014, it emerged that Google was in touch with Australian carriers regarding the possibility of tests in Tasmania.
To try and keep the project to itself, Google has ring-fenced Loon with a broad patent application.
Project Loon proposes using stratospheric balloons to carry solar-powered radio kit providing connectivity to the ground below in a roughly-40 km circle. Each balloon is designed to fly for 100 days at about 18,000 metres (60,000 feet), with GPS to help recovery when it returns to the ground. ®