Steven Levy explains How Google Will Use High-Flying Balloons to Deliver Internet to the Hinterlands.
Project Loon sails through the stratosphere, where there are different wind layers. Using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the balloons are maneuvered by identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction and then adjusting altitude to float in that layer.
Last week Google started a pilot program in New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect to their balloons. This is the first time they’ve launched this many balloons (30 this week) and tried to connect to this many receivers on the ground.
Google hopes someday you’ll be able to use your cell phone with your existing service provider to connect to the balloons and get connectivity where there is none today.
Meanwhile, Google is an investor in a medium orbit satellite system called O3B (Other 3 Billion), which hand off Ka band connections to cell towers below as they circle around the equator.
The new constellation is scheduled for launch on June 24, 2013 and will initially be made up of 8 satellites with plans to extend this to 16. An Arianespace Soyuz rocket, designated VS05, will launch on a mission from the Guiana Space Center in South America. The Soyuz will carry four satellites for O3b Networks, which will provide broadband service to developing countries.
O3B refers to the “Other 3 Billion” and is primarily intended as a backhaul service for cellular phones in remote countries that do not have a wire line infrastructure. They will also be serving existing, high end maritime markets like the cruise industry.
Each 03B satellite will have 12, fully steerable Ka-Band antennas. Two will target the terrestrial gateways while the other 10 will target the coverage areas. Each beam will have a throughput capacity of 600 Mbps in each direction.
Eight satellites will be spaced 45 degrees apart, orbiting around the equator, in a non-inclined orbit. The beam footprints will have a diameter of about 600 km between 45N and 45S and will be dynamically steered as the satellite moves.
O3b customer terminals have a pair of 1.8 meter Ka band tracking antennas. One antenna acquires and follows a rising O3b satellite in MEO orbit while the second antenna is parked in a home position for the next rising satellite.
O3B Networks was awarded a contract by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to provide high-speed broadband service to the their Oasis of the Seas, which is the world’s largest cruise ship carrying 8000 passengers and crew.
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