EXPLAINER: Could balloons energy uncensored web in Cuba?


This Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, file photograph offered by Project Loon reveals a stratospheric balloon taking off for Puerto Rico from a mission website in Winnemucca, Nev. For years, Alphabet, the father or mother firm of Google, labored to good an internet-balloon division service known as Loon. It shut down that mission in January 2021, saying it wasn’t commercially viable. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has known as on the administration of President Joe Biden to greenlight a plan to transmit the web to individuals in Cuba by way of high-altitude balloons when their authorities has blocked entry. Credit: Project Loon by way of AP, File

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, known as this week on the administration of President Joe Biden to greenlight a plan to transmit the web to individuals in Cuba by way of high-altitude balloons when their authorities has blocked entry.


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Yes. For years, Alphabet—the father or mother firm of Google—labored to good an internet-balloon division service known as Loon. It shut down that mission in January, saying it wasn’t commercially viable.

Prior to the shutdown, Loon balloons had been offering service in mountainous areas in Kenya by a partnership with a neighborhood telecom, Telkom Kenya. The service additionally helped present wireless communications in Puerto Rico within the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the island’s mobile network. Loon partnered with AT&T to make service out there.


The Loon balloons had been successfully cell towers the dimensions of a tennis courtroom. They floated 60,000 to 75,000 ft, or 11 to 14 miles (18,000- 23,000 meters, or 18-22 kilometers), above the Earth, properly above business jetliner routes. Made of the commonplace plastic polyethylene, the balloons used solar panels for electrical energy and will ship service to smartphones in partnership with a neighborhood telecom.

Each balloon may serve hundreds of individuals, the corporate stated. But that they had to get replaced each 5 months or so due to the cruel circumstances within the stratosphere. And the balloons might be tough to manage. “Navigating balloons through the stratosphere has always been hard,” wrote Salvatore Candido, who had been chief know-how officer for Loon, in a December 2020 weblog publish. The firm created algorithms that tracked wind patterns.


Loon had stated that past the balloons themselves, it wanted community integration with a telecom to offer service and a few tools on the bottom within the area. It additionally wanted permission from native regulators—one thing that the Cuban authorities is not prone to grant.


Yes. Loon used a number of balloons to increase connections past the required floor hyperlink. In one 2018 test, Loon stated the connection jumped 1,000 kilometers, or about 620 miles, over 7 balloons. Another time, it bridged a wi-fi connection over 600 kilometers, or about 370 miles, between two balloons. Cuba and Florida are solely about 100 miles (160 kilometers) aside at their closest.

EXPLAINER: Could balloons power uncensored internet in Cuba?
In this Thursday, July 15, 2021, file photograph, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks throughout a information convention on the places of work of U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., in Miami, as DeSantis and different officers pressed the White House to help efforts to protect web service to antigovernment protesters in Cuba, even advocating using big balloons as floating Wi-Fi hotspots to permit photos of dissent to stream unabated from the authoritarian nation. Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File


But consultants aren’t positive it might be that straightforward to arrange a guerrilla web service for Cuba this fashion. It would want an unused band of spectrum, or radio frequencies, to transmit a connection to Cuba, and spectrum use is often managed by nationwide governments. Anyone attempting this must discover a free block of spectrum that would not be interfered with, stated Jacob Sharony, of Mobius Consulting, a cell and wi-fi consulting agency.

Balloon- or drone-powered networks aren’t prone to be economical over the long run, stated Tim Farrar of TMF Associates, a satellite communications advisor. While they’re appropriate for bridging communications amid disasters or in conflict zones, the transmission capabilities of such networks is not giant—”certainly not enough to serve the entire population of Cuba or anything like that,” Farrar stated.

Another problem: The Cuban authorities may additionally attempt to jam the sign.


DeSantis promoted the balloon thought Thursday alongside two Cuban-American members of Congress from the Miami space, Reps. Maria Salazar and Carlos Gimenez, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr and Cuban-American lawyer, businessman and museum director Marcell Felipe.

Felipe stated he has been speaking for about two years with a protection contractor who may deploy such balloons in an economical means in airspace close to Cuba, however declined to call the corporate. Felipe stated his thought would contain transmitting web connectivity on to cell phones on the island with out the participation of any floor supplier. In feedback to The Associated Press, Felipe claimed it would not be possible for the Cuban authorities to dam these balloon-delivered indicators “in any important method,” although he did not cite any proof.

None of the supporters offered a price estimate. Salazar stated that if the federal authorities endorsed the plan, she believes it might be funded totally with contributions from members of the Cuban diaspora if essential.


Internet entry in Cuba has been costly and comparatively uncommon till just lately. Starting in December 2018, Cubans may get web entry on their telephones by the state telecom monopoly. More than half of Cubans at the moment have web entry.

But the Cuban authorities restricts impartial media and censors what’s out there to Cubans on-line, in response to Human Rights Watch. It disrupts internet entry in an try to go off protests.

Alphabet closes down internet balloon network project ‘Loon’

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EXPLAINER: Could balloons energy uncensored web in Cuba? (2021, July 17)
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