Alphabet, the parent holding company of Google, is launching Project Loon in Indonesia next year. The three largest wireless carriers in the country plan to support the Internet balloon project, which may be able to beam wireless Internet to millions of people unreachable through traditional cell towers and fiber-optic cables.
Indonesia is the fourth most populated country on the planet, but the country is split into over 17,000 islands, making it hard for services to reach everyone. Two-thirds of the populations still lack Internet access.
Project Loon originally tried to offer Internet through its own Wi-Fi service, but the plan was repealed by telecoms. Now, the project works with telecoms to branch out Internet access to remote areas. Alphabet is working with the telecoms to make sure Project Loon doesn’t override carrier services in places where a strong connection can be established.
Indonesian telecom providers are still apprehensive about Project Loon, and have reportedly not discussed payment terms with the search giant. Alphabet might offer very cheap access to the balloons to win over the wireless providers at first, with the goal of winning over other telecoms in the future.
Project Loon has seen a host of improvements since the original announcement in 2013, including accuracy, travel speed, time in the air, and wireless range. Even with all of those improvements, Alphabet still has a dedicated team on hand to capture rogue balloons. Everything from bursts to the wind brushing the balloon off course is handled by the team.
Alphabet’s project might be the most exciting, but it is not the only project trying to push Internet access in Southeast Asia. Facebook has a solar drone plan that will beam free Internet, SpaceX wants to launch a constellation of low-orbit satellites, and Qualcomm backed another low-orbit satellite startup.
The hope for Alphabet is these satellite and drone projects cost a lot more and take longer than Project Loon, but Alphabet has invested $1 billion into SpaceX to be a partner on its constellation, just in case Loon doesn’t work out.