Project Loon, Google’s ambitious balloon-based project to bring Internet access to the two-thirds of the world’s population who don’t yet have it, is about to begin its first live tests with a real carrier, reports The Guardian.

Australian carrier Telstra is providing base stations and part of its radio spectrum to allow Google to carry out tests with 20 balloons. The base stations will provide a two-way radio link with the balloons, which will then broadcast an LTE signal back to the ground – each balloon providing a signal across up to 600 square miles … 

The balloons are equipped with solar panels for power, and can remain aloft for around three months at a time. The eventual plan is to completely encircle the Earth with balloons at a height of around 12 miles (twice as high as airliners fly).

While Google has test-flown the balloons before, this will be the first time they have been linked to a carrier since Google announced the plan back in June 2013.

A secondary use for the balloons will be to provide Internet access in areas hit by natural disasters when ground-based facilities have been knocked out of commission.

Via The Verge

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