The first country to receive Project Loon support will be Sri Lanka. Google revealed the first destination earlier today, with Sri Lankan foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera announcing the balloons will start flying over the country by March 2016.
The Sri Lankan government also said it is on its way to becoming the first country with universal Internet coverage. Project Loon covers a large space of land, but we are unsure if it will be nationwide in 2016.
Google intends to use Sri Lanka as further testing ground for Project Loon. The balloons last over 100 days in the air now and have enhanced systems for finding mobile devices and sending satellite data at a faster rate.
Controlling the balloons has also got a lot easier, thanks in part to Google’s work on controls and wind movement over the past two years. It is now able to complete an entire world loop and land the balloon within a 50 mile radius of where it started.
Sri Lanka is a small island off the coast of India. It is still developing Internet infrastructure, with most users on low-end Android devices. This is perfect for Project Loon, which offers 4G LTE and 3G for mobile owners at a low cost.
Google will work with carriers already in the region to make sure there are no issues. This should fix most of the issues with carriers being slow or inconsistent across the island, if Google invests enough time into making Sri Lanka fully online.
This is only the first country to receive Project Loon support. Before it officially launches in 2016, we expect Google will announce other country receiving support.
It is still behind Facebook’s Internet.org push, but Project Loon is direct infrastructure changes for a country, while Internet.org is simply a freemium carrier service that breaks net neutrality rules.