Alphabet’s “balloon-powered internet” — Project Loon — has been active for five years now. Born of Google’s X Labs, the initiative sees balloons floating 20km high in the stratosphere, beaming internet to people below. Its primary function is to bring connectivity to those affected by natural disasters, ensuring they can access the web even if traditional systems have been compromised. Today, the project has announced it has expanded globally, thanks to its ongoing partnership with AT&T.
In 2017 AT&T became the first carrier to work with the balloon-distributed wireless setup in the aftermath of Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria. Now, that network integration has extended to AT&T’s 200+ global roaming partners, too, which means Loon has the ability to serve hundreds of operators around the world without having to carry out a specific network integration, which can take weeks or even months. This means that should a disaster strike, the service will more or less be ready to go straight away, which is the ultimate goal for the project, since no-one can predict when or where a disaster will hit.