Google's floating cell towers closer to launch

Feb 07, 2016 10:35 pm
Ars Technica reports that a Jan. 26 Federal Communications Commission letter gets Google's dream of a fleet of balloons-as-cell-towers closer to reality. The FCC recently wrote that, "Google’s proposed testing does not pose health or environmental risks," and "Google will avoid harmful interference to other users of the E-band." The plan, which has been referred to as Project Loon, is a "nationwide testing of airborne and terrestrial transmitters in the 71-76 and 81-86 GHz bands (collectively, the E-band)." On the ground, Google customers would point their antennae toward the sky at balloons across the country to get LTE service, if the tests are successful. Google is trying to keep things secret, with a "two-year nationwide test." Ars Technica explains that these frequencies now are, "often deployed as a wireless backhaul option for network providers." Current E-Band applications often use highly directional antennas for multi-gigabit speeds over a mile or two, and Google says since the antennae would be pointed in different directions -- horizontal for current uses, and vertical for the balloons -- there would be little interference. Google says there is "no factual basis" that the RF energy from the balloons would or could harm people or animals. Google needs the FCC and Federal Aviation Authority to complete signing off on their two-year test. For now, the company has permission to test the balloons in California and Nevada.