Alphabet's Project Loon officially launched in Puerto Rico

Google Parent Turns on Internet Balloons in Puerto Rico

"This is the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we're still learning how best to do this", said Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon.

Project Loon is part of Alphabet's R&D unit known as X, the same unit that created self-driving cars. "The update allows iPhone customers with iPhone 5c and later models running iOS 10 or higher, to connect to a provisional band on the AT&T network so they can be in touch with loved ones and get services in this time of need".

Puerto Rico is slowly recovering from the devastation caused by hurricanes Mari and Irma, and millions of people are still said to be living without electricity but the recovery process is slower than expected due to disruption of communication infrastructure, including internet.

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The balloons have previously been used in other disaster relief efforts, including following flooding in Peru past year, as well as in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Indonesia and New Zealand. Some people with LTE enabled phones can now have access to the internet and send text messages. This is where Google's parent company is stepping in, through its Project Loon team.

Apple is working with AT&T and Google parent-company Alphabet to enable emergency LTE in Puerto Rico after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria last month. The effort took a lot of cooperation from several other entities, to cut through the red tape as quickly as possible. However, the team is confident that it will help people who have been affected by the hurricane to stay informed and be able to communicate through their LTE-enabled cellular device.

Two weeks after Hurricane Irma slammed into the Caribbean islands, a second super-storm - Maria - devastated the United States territory on September 20, leaving the population of 3.4 million people without electricity or cellphone reception. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had earlier provided consent to Alphabet's application, which included letters and emails from eight wireless carriers in Puerto Rico, for "Project Loon" to use their frequencies for disaster relief and to restore limited communications.


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