Google: Balloon-Borne Internet Is Coming Along

Project Loon has fast connection speeds but unpredictable movement

Project Loon

Google's mission to bring Internet to the masses via hot-air balloons is coming along, according to reports.

Project Loon is the company's outlandish-sounding effort to bring Internet access to impoverished areas around the world, such as the places where the 4 billion people worldwide can't get online, the Wall Street Journal reported.

So far, Google's balloons have flown "two million kilometers in testing," Astro Teller, Google's "chief of moonshots" at the Google X research lab, the same skunk works that's building the self-driving car and the "smart contact lens," the newspaper reported.

Google is testing the Loon balloons in the Central Valley as well as in Brazil and New Zealand, the newspaper reported. So far, the balloons are better than Comcast: the balloons were able to transfer data to computers at 22 megabits per second and five megabits per second to smartphones. Most U.S. Internet connections average ten megabits per second.

One problem with Loon is that the balloons are carried by air, so getting them to float at the right altitude and in the right direction is a "challenge," Teller said at a recent conference at MIT. A balloon has already crashed in Nevada.

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