Google said to deploy Wi-Fi blimps in Africa and Asia


Google is reported to have plans to connect developing markets to the internet through with sky-bound balloons and blimps,

Dubbed “high-altitude platforms” (HAPS), these mechanisms will reportedly be able to connect roughly a billion more people to the Internet worldwide, according to Wired. The blimps signals are said to be able to reach people in areas that are hundreds of square miles.

The new wireless networks would serve areas in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia where technology infrastructure is lacking.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has begun talks in countries such as South Africa and Kenya to change current rules on how such networks can be built, including the possible use of airwaves reserved for television broadcasts.

A report by CNET revealed that the company filed a patent application back in 2000 for a “high altitude platform control system” that would contain “beacons”. The object of the patent was stated as “[improving] the reliability of a communications system.”

HAPS are deployed above the range of commercial flights but lower than satellites – allowing for lower latency times and less energy consumption.

Besides the Wi-Fi blimps, Google is reportedly also considering a satellite-based wireless system, along with testing other kinds of wireless frequencies, according to the Wall Street Journal. “There’s not going to be one technology that will be the silver bullet,” an anonymous source told the Journal.

The use of television “White Space” is already available in the US, and in the UK the regulator Ofcom is currently constructing a regulatory model for licencing the frequencies.

In addition to its WiFi plans, Google has also been working on a new system of low-cost Android-powered smartphones, which would significantly boost its user base in developing countries.

Online advertising currently provides 87 per cent of Google’s annual revenue and as internet-usage in Western markets approaches complete saturation, the untapped markets of Africa and Asia would offer a significant boost to the company’s income.

The use of wireless networks would also allow Google to bypass using the established system of wired network providers.

In Europe and the US the tech giant has already clashed with these companies, with both sides accusing the other of benefiting from their own work. Other parts of the world are slowly joining the debate. In Kenya, one of the large network providers,  joined the discussion last week, when he asked the Search engine giant to consider its current policy on revenue sharing.

Google and Microsoft have already begun funding trials in Africa with stations broadcasting signals within a range of several miles.

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