Customers of cellphone provider AT&T can now connect to basic text, email and web service with LTE-enabled phones by way of two balloons that are floating some 18,000 meters (60,000 feet) above the Caribbean islands, according to FlightRadar24.com. Now, Google has officially announced Alphabet's Project Loon in Puerto Rico to provide internet to the affected regions. The company said on Friday it does not expect to use that many since each balloon can provide internet service to an area of roughly 5,000 square kilometres, or 1,930 square miles.
Alphabet says that deploying Project Loon in Puerto Rico is the first time it has used "machine learning powered algorithms" to ensure the balloons are over Puerto Rico.
The company is sending solar-powered stratospheric balloons to bring connectivity to residents of the island.
Loon made a point to thank the following entities as well: High Tech Communications Services, MilkyWay Communications, North Sight Communications, PDV Spectrum Holding Company, Space Data Spectrum Holdings, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority/PREPA Networks, Sensus Spectrum and Spok.
For the record, Alphabet launched the balloons from its Nevada launch site to Puerto Rico with the help of aviation authorities and air traffic controllers under the Puerto Rican government. "Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week". They also emphasize the still experimental nature of the technology and are "not quite sure how well it will work".
We plan to continue to offer emergency internet connectivity in areas where it's needed for as long as it is useful and we're able to do so.
"'Loon' needs to be integrated with a telco partner's network, the balloons can not do it alone", an Alphabet spokesperson was quoted as saying. Project Loon is still an experimental technology and we're not quite sure how well it will work, but we hope it helps get people the information and communication they need to get through this unimaginably hard time.
Drifting 20 km up in the stratosphere, Loon balloons have the potential to extend connectivity to where it's needed, regardless of what's happening below.
Hurricane Maria devastated the US territory of 3.4 million people since making landfall last month.