Project Loon’s deployment of emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico in under a month is quite an impressive technological feat. By the end of October, AT&T and T-Mobile customers could connect to LTE from these miles-high balloons. Alphabet’s X division noted today that over 100,000 people have now benefited from this service.
After a week of operation last month, X revealed that its balloons had provided connectivity to “tens of thousands.” At the same time, it announced that T-Mobile customers, in addition to AT&T subscribers, could connect to Loon.
Almost two weeks later, that figure has jumped to more than 100,000 people receiving LTE service on their Band 8 compatible devices. For context, Puerto Rico has a population of approximately 3.4 million, with the balloons targeting the hardest hit regions.
In this deployment, Loon is only providing “basic internet communication” like SMS, text, email, and other basic web access, but no voice service.
Following the Category 4 hurricane in September, Alphabet’s X team looked into whether Project Loon could be used to provide service as it previously did in a flood-stricken Peru. It took a week for Loon to gain authorization from the FCC to provide that emergency connectivity.
Two weeks later the service was up and running with balloons launched from a site in Nevada being navigated to the island.