Alphabet’s high-altitude balloon company, Loon, which uses stratospheric technology to provide Internet connectivity on the ground, has signed a new commercial agreement with Telefonica’s Internet para Todos (IpT). The agreement, which is also partly supported by Facebook and the Latin American Development Bank, aims to provide Internet access to users in remote areas of Latin America, particularly in remote areas of Peru’s Amazon rainforest.
If the agreement receives all the necessary regulatory approvals, Loon will begin providing services in 2020. This is the first step in the commercial deployment of high-altitude balloon Internet services to provide connectivity over a duration. This isn’t the first time Loon has worked with Telefonica, after the two companies worked together to provide emergency Internet connections in the wake of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Peru in May and have been working together on several projects for years.
For Loon, which has won its third commercial contract, including a contract with Telkom Kenya, is awaiting final regulatory approval, Loon has previously signed a low-Earth orbit satellite development agreement with Telecast Canada.
The plan, in partnership with IpT, will provide high-altitude balloon Internet services to the pilot area, which accounts for 15 per cent of the total area of Loreto, Peru, with a total population of about 200,000 people. About a quarter of these 200,000 users have access to at least 3G-quality Internet connections, according to Loon. Loon balloons that will be deployed to provide services essentially act as very high-altitude cellular towers, receive LTE connections and assign those connections directly to user devices on the ground.