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Google Project Loon to deliver cell coverage to Puerto Rico

09 Octubre 2017

'More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services, ' explains US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai in a statement to press on following the granting of a experimental licence to Alphabet.

The project will provide emergency cellular coverage to the U.S. territory, which would be vital in speeding up its recovery process.

The island is almost isolated from the rest of the world, with just a few areas where cell sites remained standing.

"When a wind pattern couldn't be found to keep the balloon over land, our algorithms picked the next best option, sending the balloon drifting out over the Pacific Ocean to pick up easterly winds that could help it sail back into position". There is so far zero cellphone coverage on St. John.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, might provide the solution for the communication problems in Puerto Rico.

US authorities have approved Alphabet Inc's application to use its experimental Project Loon balloons to provide emergency mobile phone service to disaster-stricken Puerto Rico, as Tesla said it would send more battery supplies.

Cell service has mostly been down since Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Vice President Mike Pence visited the island on Friday in a bid to reassure those on the island that it will receive federal assistance.

Project Loon was announced in 2013, and has seen Google engineers develop solar-powered, high-altitude balloons intended to provide internet service in remote regions inaccessible by traditional broadband. Other industry leaders like Tesla have offered their help to rebuild the power grid of the country, which was also devastated by the heavy storms last month.

Mr. Pai urged wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon "to maximize this effort's chances of success". Each balloon has the capacity to serve 1,930 square miles or 5,000 square kilometers, effectively covering the entire island and some parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. "To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone", the spokesperson explains. It had partnered with a telecomm company and was testing balloons.

President Donald Trump has been criticized for his reaction to the hurricane, with critics saying the government has not done enough to help their fellow Americans in the Caribbean. Traffic is then routed from balloon to balloon before reaching the nearest balloon with an uplink to a wider network.

Google Project Loon to deliver cell coverage to Puerto Rico