The Sri Lankan government is planning to acquire a 25% stake in a joint venture with US search engine giant Google, in a bid to deliver high speed internet services via a network of high-altitude balloons to the whole of the country, The Indian Express reports. Telecommunications minister Harin Fernando said that 10% of the joint venture’s shares will be offered to existing telecoms service providers in the country. The official added that the trial of ‘Project Loon’ is scheduled to take place later this month in Ratmalana (Colombo District) and could last up to a year. ‘Our objective is to extend coverage so that the entire island will be covered. With competition, tariffs will also come down’, Mr Fernando said.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in July 2015 the state signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Google to deploy the latter’s Project Loon balloons in order to increase 3G coverage across the country. Google initially launched its balloon-powered internet scheme in New Zealand in 2013, stating: ‘Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40km in diameter at speeds comparable to 3G. For balloon-to-balloon and balloon-to-ground communications, the balloons use antennas equipped with specialised radio frequency technology’. Project Loon utilises unlicensed frequencies in the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands.