DoT looks to resolve uncertainty over Project Loon

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New Delhi | Published: December 15, 2015 12:59 AM

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is meeting top government officials, including telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, on December 16 to discuss the issue and take it forward successfully

As Google’s Project Loon faces uncertainty over its use in India’s air space due to fear that it would interfere with cellular transmission and create technical glitches, the department of telecommunications (DoT) may be looking for a solution to resolve it, as it considers it crucial for its ambitious Digital India mission.

Top government sources told FE that the DoT may ask Google to reconfigure the frequency band for use of its balloons in India’s air space.

These big balloons would float at high-altitude in the stratosphere, between 18 km and 25 km above earth surface for transmission of Internet services to a ground area about 40 km in diameter using a wireless communications technology on 4G or LTE (Long Term Evolution).

Top government officials said Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai is meeting top government officials including telecommunications minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 16 to discuss the issue and take it forward for successfully launching balloons over India’s air space that would help it provide internet connectivity for the unconnected mass.

According to a government official, Google may have to reconfigure the frequency band for use of its balloons in India’s air space.

“The DoT would figure out the frequency band that will not interfere with any other commercial or defence band in India. This would have to be worked out with different agencies in the government and with Google as well…,” said an official.

Interestingly, the Indian government does not want to let off the Google’s Project Loon as it would help in strengthening of mobile network across the country and also address the call drops menace.

Sources at the DoT said the Loon uses 2.4 GHz band frequency that will interfere with the mid-band frequency that range 0.5 GHz-3 GHz.

Last week, telecom minister told the Parliament that Google’s Project Loon, through which the online search giant plans to provide internet connectivity using balloons, will interfere with cellular transmissions of mobile operators in India and create technical glitches.

Google uses solar panel and wind to power electronic equipment in the balloon throughout the day. It has already tested this technology in California (United States), Brazil and New Zealand.

Initially, the balloons communicated using unlicensed 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands, and Google claims that the setup allows it to deliver speeds comparable to 3G to users, but they then switched to 4G- LTE.

To use 4G or LTE, Project Loon partners with telecom companies to share cellular spectrum so that people will be able to access the Internet everywhere directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices.

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