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Google to trial internet balloons in Queensland


Google to trial internet balloons in Queensland

Remote regions of Australia could soon be granted internet access thanks to the latest move in Google’s Project Loon drive.

The California-based company is set to trial 20 of its connectivity-giving helium balloons in the western part of Queensland next month, partnering up with Telstra – Australia’s biggest telecoms firm – to carry out the test flights.

As part of the trial, Telstra is expected to provide Google with base stations that will communicate with the balloons.

Project Loon represents Google’s mission to supply internet connections to remote or rural areas of the world, using specially built helium balloons that carry antennas to provide 3G-like speeds.

The project’s latest expansion in Queensland follows a series of tests carried out over Christchurch, New Zealand – which Google chose for the favourable conditions of the area’s stratosphere – in June 2013.

The balloons will circle the world from an altitude of around 20 miles, which is about twice the height of a standard passenger jet. Ultimately, Google hopes to have balloons set in a ring around the earth, circling the globe on westbound stratospheric winds.

Providing wider internet access would no doubt improve local economies, as smaller businesses find themselves able to access a broader customer base through internet marketing and SEO. Back in 2010, reports showed that the Internet was contributing as much as $50bn (£28bn) to the nation’s coffers, which is around 3.6% of the Australian GDP. The figure represents the second largest contribution to the economy, after the mining industry.

Richard Bell

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