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Balloons to help restore Puerto Rico's cell networks

08 Octubre 2017

Last week, the Project Loon team revealed that it was exploring the possibility of deploying balloons to provide "emergency connectivity" to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. "That's why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island".

"We're grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it's possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need". The company is hopeful that the balloons will be able to restore telecommunications service to the hurricane-ravaged island.

"To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone", she said, adding that the company is "making solid progress on this next step".

In its application to the government, Alphabet said that it wanted to "support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability".

In effort to help with the relief process after Hurricane Maria, Project Loon also obtained consent agreements to use land mobile radio (LMR) radio spectrum in 900 MHz band from existing carriers in Puerto Rico. The company has already deployed hundreds of power wall batteries to the island. Loon recently rolled out internet and LTE service in Peru after flooding there, reportedly providing coverage for an area roughly the size of Switzerland.

The FCC will continue response efforts in support of the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency under the National Response Framework.

Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with an emphasis on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Billionaire Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, has approached Puerto Rico about restoring the island's shattered electrical infrastructure using solar energy technology.

After setting up a network on the island of Vieques, off the main island of Puerto Rico, one team watched from a roof as local residents started getting text alerts from family members who had been trying to get in touch. Each balloon will be 15m wide and 12m tall when inflated.

Balloons to help restore Puerto Rico's cell networks