Google Project Loon balloons bounce over to Australia

Google Project Loon is expanding after it emerged that the Internet transmitting balloons will be flying over remote parts of Australia.

The web firm signed a partnership with mobile operator Telstra to test-fly 20 balloons over western Queensland and bring access to hard to reach communities with the promise that speeds will be comparable to 4G, according to The Guardian.

Google’s helium balloons fly at 20km above the areas involved in the trial and the access will be available to homes as well as mobile subscribers over large swathes of the outback currently not covered.

For its part in the trial, Telstra is providing base stations on the ground to communicate with the balloons as well as access to some of its valuable spectrum space.

The balloons work by using signals from those base stations that jump from one balloon to the next and each one is reportedly capable of transmitting signals to an area over twice the size of the Australian city of Canberra.

Scientists from the Google X lab have been working on Project Loon since 2011 and so far it has launched trials in neighbouring New Zealand where residents in Christchurch were able to access the signals.

Each balloon is designed to be in the air for around 100 days until they are guided to land once the project is over. It was during this process that one New Zealand resident informed the emergency services after the balloon was mistaken for a light aircraft. In that case a helicopter was scrambled as conditions were too rough to send out a boat and Google agreed to reimburse the company for the costs of the craft.

Google hopes to eventually have a ring of balloons encircling the earth that use westerly stratospheric winds to bring Internet access to developing countries and even help the clear up in disaster zones.