February 15, 2016 10:26 pm
Balloon-powered high-speed Internet service known as Project Loon of Google began its first tests in Sri Lanka Monday ahead of a planned joint venture with Colombo, a top IT official said.
One of three balloons that will be used in the trials entered Sri Lankan airspace Monday, the Information and Communication Technology Agency chief Muhunthan Canagey said.
He said a Google team was expected later this week to test flight controls, spectrum efficiency and other technical matters.
The government announced earlier this month it would take a 25 percent stake in a joint venture with Google to deliver a high-speed Internet service powered by helium-filled balloons.
Sri Lanka is not investing any capital, but will take the stake in return for allocating spectrum for the project. A further 10 percent of the joint venture would be offered to existing telephone service providers on the island.
It promises to extend coverage and cheaper rates for data services.
Service providers will be able to access higher speeds and improve the quality of their existing service once the balloon project is up and running.
The balloons, once in the stratosphere, will be twice as high as commercial airliners and barely visible to the naked eye. The balloons will have a lifespan of about 180 days, but can be recycled, according to Sri Lankan officials involved in the venture.
Official figures show there are 3.3 million mobile Internet connections and 630,000 fixed line Internet subscribers among more than 20 million population.
Sri Lanka became the first country in South Asia to introduce mobile phones in 1989 and the first to roll out a 3G network in 2004. It was also the first in the region to unveil a 4G network two years ago.