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Google’s Project Loon could interfere with mobile operations

Fri 11 Dec 2015

Google Project Loon

Google’s Project Loon, which aims to deliver internet connectivity to far-flung locations using balloons, will damage cellular communications provided by Indian mobile operators, the country’s government claimed today.

According to several reports including from The Times of India, and The Hindu, Telecom Minister Shankar Prasad had argued in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha (RS), the Indian Council of States, that the frequency band proposed for the Loon project is already in use for cellular operations in India. He explained that this clash would lead to interference with mobile transmissions.

The response was given in reply to the RS’ query whether technical difficulties would arise from approving the operation of Project Loon in India.

Google’s Project Loon, launched in June 2013, aims to use a huge global network of fifty-foot high-altitude balloons to provide internet connectivity to rural and remote areas. The technology has already been tested across New Zealand, California in the States, and Brazil. The search giant claims that each balloon can cover a ground area of around 80km in diameter, through wireless communications technologies LTE or 4G.

To push out these services Google plans to work alongside local mobile operators sharing their cellular frequencies. This will allow users to connect to the internet at any time from their mobile devices. The balloons are able to relay wireless traffic from users’ phones back to the internet over high-speed links.

The balloon project has also raised eyebrows for its plans to travel through nations’ airspaces uninvited – a potential political and privacy concern. With Google expanding its presence in such a way, some worry that Loon could be used for spying and handing over personal information to the NSA.

Other doubts have questioned the importance of social networking and video streaming over basic medical needs and food supplies in third-world countries. Bill Gates has criticised the project, arguing in 2013 that “When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you. When a kid gets diarrhoea, no, there’s no website that relieves that.”


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