Google to Provide Puerto Rico With Cell Service Using Balloons

08 October, 2017, 00:56 | Author: Malcolm Fuller
  • President Donald Trump tosses rolls of paper towels to people at a hurricane relief distribution center at Calvary Chapel in San Juan Puerto Rico

Cell service has mostly been down since Hurricane Maria hit the island. The license extends from October 6th until April 4th, 2018, and it was granted to Ben Wojtowicz, a software engineer and member of Alphabet's X lab who works on Project Loon. "It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure", said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement.

When it comes to power, Tesla boss Elon Musk wants to get the lights back on in Puerto Rico using a solar power grid designed by his company - the entrepreneur said on Twitter that projects completed on smaller islands could be scaled up.

Tesla had previously said, in late September, that it was sending to Puerto Rico hundreds of batteries that can rely on solar panels to store power which provides emergency aid in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Google parent company Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2013 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions, said in an FCC filing it was working to "support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability" in Puerto Rico.

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It's unclear if X has found a telecomm company to partner with in the US territory.

"To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network-the balloons can't do it alone", she said, adding that the company is "making solid progress on this next step".

It was the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in over a century and the 155mph winds left Puerto Rico entirely without power. In a report issued yesterday, the FCC revealed that 83 percent of cell towers on the island are still down, with the US Virgin Islands in a similar state. "You don't have to announce you've lit up coverage".

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