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Google delivering emergency texts, emails and web access in Puerto Rico and Peru

Since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, causing significant damage to the connectivity infrastructure, Google Loon have been working hard to see if it was possible to bring some basic internet connectivity back to the island. Google Loon is now collaborating with AT&T to deliver emergency internet service to some of the hardest hit parts of the island.

While Project Loon is still an experimental technology and they are not quite sure how well it will work, they hope this can be of some help to the people of Puerto Rico at this time.

Two of the Google Loon balloons are already over the Puerto Rico enabling texts, emails and basic web access to AT&T customers with handsets that use its 4G LTE network.

Several more balloons are on their way from Nevada, and Google has been authorized by the Federal Communications Commission to send up to 30 balloons to serve the hard-hit area.

Delivering Emergency Service in Peru for Months

Project Loon has been working together with Telefonica and the Peruvian Government to deliver basic Internet connectivity to tens of thousands of people in affected areas around Lima, Chimbote and Piura.

In March, Peru was battered by extreme rains and flooding, with the government declaring more than 800 provinces to be in a state of emergency. Terrestrial communications infrastructure was severely impacted in many communities, leaving people unable to communicate with loved ones and gather critical, time-sensitive information.

Drifting 20 km up in the stratosphere, Loon balloons have the potential to extend connectivity to where it’s needed, regardless of what’s happening below. So, in partnership with Telefonica and the Peruvian Government, we attempted to help provide connectivity to flood affected areas across the country. Since turning on service seven weeks ago, Project Loon delivered basic Internet connectivity to more than 40,000km2 of the country, serving over 160 GB worth of data— enough to send and receive roughly 30 million WhatsApp messages, or 2 million emails.

Being able to deliver connectivity during the floods has only been possible with the support of many organizations. We’ve spent the last few months integrating balloon powered internet into Telefonica’s network so they could serve their customers from our balloons. Additionally, during the emergency response to the flood, O3B networks, Level 3 and Ecologistica Peru helped quickly set up ground stations (which connect the balloons to the Internet’s backbone) in areas with complete outages. Finally, the recent integration of Nokia’s proven LTE technology meant that the balloons could deliver improved LTE service.

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