Despite now being a stand-alone company, the Google-backed ‘Loon’ high-flying stratospheric broadband balloon project, says it is looking for satellite partners. Loon already has a commercial contract covering Kenya (with Telecom Kenya) and is seeking other local telcos in East Africa.
Loon’s balloons fly at between 15-20 kilometres high and can stay aloft for weeks. Flights can last around 3-4 months, although some have lasted for about 200 days.
Speaking at a London conference on VSAT Global and Next-Gen Satellite Applications, Max Kamenetsky, senior project manager at Loon, explained Loon’s business case and outlined lessons learned over the past six years, in particular as to how Loon managed to employ very high-level stratospheric winds.
The system has been extensively tested in hurricane relief projects in the Caribbean and where ground-based telephone systems had been wiped out.
Kamenetsky said that satellite operators should be looking to Loon because of its extremely low latency and very high connectivity over urban areas.
Loon uses clusters of balloons to provide services to the ground below, with one balloon potentially covering 5,000 square kilometres.
Kamenetsky said that Loon was now looking at how its balloons can communicate directly with satellites, and that Loon’s ability to beam one gigabit/second connectivity to users below.