Technologists Question Google's Balloon Project

If you've never heard of it, Google has a project that it's developing called Loon. It involves launching balloons in third-world countries to act as transceivers for 3G networks to reduce the cost of infrastructure for the these countries. Technologists are skeptical.

The balloons use solar power for the electronics on-board, and would provide 3G connectivity. This means that they would compete with existing cellular networks that are expanding and making the service more affordable already.

Phares Karuiki, a technology consultant, stated that there are already 3G networks available in most parts of Kenya and that the real problem is that the people in the poor areas cannot afford the equipment, laptops and smartphones, to connect and prefer using less expensive feature phones.

Google's Loon Project Manager, Mike Cassidy, countered with the fact that while there may be good 3G coverage in Kenya, that was not true of many other countries. "We don't think there is any one solution or one company that will have a solution for the whole world," he says. "We just think that from what we've seen, there are huge swaths of people who don't have connectivity."

It should be noted, that with organization like One Laptop per Child trying to bring low cost computing devices to poor areas, Google's idea might be a good solution for remote areas and it would complement projects to bring data access to these countries.