Alphabet’s Project Loon is officially bringing wireless internet to Puerto Rico, after about a month of Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall. The company has teamed up with the Federal Aviation Authority, FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission and other aviation authorities and cellular spectrum in order to bring connectivity to parts of the island. Partnering with AT&T, Project Loon will provide limited internet connectivity, with the support of basic web service and email, as well as text messaging.
“We’ve never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace, and we’re grateful for the support of AT&T and the many other partners and organizations that have made this possible,” Westgarth writes. “Thanks to the Pan-American and Puerto Rican governments’ aviation authorities and air traffic controllers, who enabled us to send small teams of balloons from our launch site in Nevada to Puerto Rico. Thanks also to SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision who helped quickly set up essential ground infrastructure so that the balloons could get internet connectivity.”
Since the hurricane, AT&T has been working hard and has already restored access to 60 percent of the total population of Puerto Rico. Each balloon of Project Loon can cover up to 5000 sq/km, so the company hopes it can cover most of the island. The company uses LTE band 8 to provide access, and AT&T customers using the latest iPhones, Samsung Galaxy devices (starts from S6), Moto G, Motorola Z2 Force, plus the BlackBerry Passport and KEYone.
This isn’t the first time Project Loon is playing a part in disaster recovery. Last year, it provided service in Peru after massive rains and extreme flooding. Customers will see LTE displayed on the phone whether they are connected to a regular tower or Project Loon. It’s likely that you will get the connectivity during daytime as the balloons float by in the stratosphere (launched from Nevada).