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Google to launch hundreds of internet-enabled balloons in 2016

Google’s Project Loon never seizes to impress. Though the initiative started testing about two years ago, the US internet giant’s moonshot of sending internet-beaming balloons into our stratospheres have just gone up a notch.

According to the BBC, the internet giant is planning to launch a string of 300 balloons, enough to create continuous on-the-ground coverage of a section of the world’s Southern Hemisphere.

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Each balloon will cover around 40km in diameter, with speeds of up to 10 megabits a second. The longest a balloon has remained afloat has been 744 days.

“We hope next year to build our first continuous ring around the world, and to have some sort of continuous coverage for certain regions,” Mike Cassidy, the vice-president of Project Loon, told the BBC. “And if all goes well after, then after that we will start rolling out our first beta commercial customers.”

Read more: Internet for the masses: Google’s Project Loon finally takes off in SA

Google is also partnering with three of Indonesia’s telecoms to launch hundreds of floating internet beamers into our skies next year. According to eMarketer, 29% of Indonesians have access to the internet today.

The partnership with Indosat, Telkomsel and XL Axiata will help change that figure, by connecting some of the country’s 17 000 islands to the web.

Project Loon was incubated by Google X, the company’s experimental or moonshot lab, in 2011 and was announced in 2013. Since then, 88 internet-enabled balloons have travelled across regions from the Antarctic to New Zealand, and have even crashed in the South Africa’s Karoo.

Google has been active with other internet projects to connect the world’s four billion unconnected people. Over the last few years, the tech giant bought Titan Aerospace — a solar-powered drone startup as well as a satellite company Skybox Imaging. The idea is to use internet-enabled drones and satellites to help connect the world.

Read more: Elon Musk wants to bring ‘low cost internet’ satellites to the world

Major tech companies like Facebook, Google,SpaceX, Qualcomm as well as Richard Branson’s Virgin have all shown interest in this space.

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