November 22, 2019

Loon is flying the internet to rural areas… via balloon 

A sister company of Google is using balloons to bring the internet to the Amazon rain forest.

This week Alphabet subsidiary Loon inked a deal with Internet para Todos (IpT) to bring solar-powered, balloon-based connectivity to remote parts of the Amazon rainforest. 

The deal will make the internet available to about 200k people in the Loreto Region of Peru, around 75% of whom currently don’t have access to connectivity of 3G quality or greater. Facebook and Telefónica-backed IpT aim to connect 6m people in rural Peru by 2021, and Loon’s working on expanding to regions of central Kenya.

From disaster relief to permanent fixture

In the past few years, Loon has used natural disasters to test its balloons’ ability. Loon connected tens of thousands of Peruvians impacted by flooding in 2017 and, that same year, parked balloons over Puerto Rico for months after Hurricane Maria.

Most recently, Loon swooped in after an 8.0 earthquake damaged infrastructure in Peru.

Loon’s aspirations square with Alphabet’s business model

Loon’s mission is “to connect people everywhere,” but it’s hard to overlook that more people browsing the internet likely means more ad revenue for Loon’s sister company, Google. And that Loon will likely have a monopoly in the areas it provides access.

Connecting people everywhere sounds like a big business opportunity, as about 3.4B people still don’t have access to the internet.

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