“In a few months we will truly be able to say: Sri Lanka. Covered.”
Sri Lanka makes history by becoming the first ever country to receive nationwide hi-speed internet connectivity, thanks to Google’s ‘Project Loon’.
A network of 13 giant ‘telecom tower style’ balloons will hover over the stratosphere of the Indian Ocean by March 2016.
3G internet coverage and free WiFi access will be made available to all of the island’s population of over 20 million.
The deal was signed at Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremsinghe’s office in Colombo on July 28, 2015, following approval from President Maithripala Sirisena.
Sri Lanka’s Telecoms Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, helped broker the deal and commented:
“The entire Sri Lankan island – every village from Dondra to Point Pedro will be covered with affordable high speed internet using Google Loon’s balloon technology.”
He added: “In a few months we will truly be able to say: Sri Lanka. Covered.”
Google’s Vice President and Project Leader of Project Loon, Mike Cassidy, was also present at the important signing.
He said: “One of the key things we do is we partner with the local telcos.
“With our systems we use LTE…so anyone with a smartphone would be able to get internet access.”
Each remotely-controlled balloon can cover an area of 5,000 square km and last up to 100 days.
Replacement balloons can be made within hours and sent up within hours.
All 13 balloons will be positioned in high altitudes, soaring twice as high as commercial airline routes.
They will then broadcast 3G or LTE signals back down to the ground.
Internet service providers (ISP) can buy access to the network through the floating balloons. Customers will be able to purchase data packages from various ISPs.
Muhunthun Canagey, Head of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), says:
“Service providers will be able to access higher speeds and improve the quality of their existing service. We can also expect prices to come down.”
Sri Lanka currently has around 2.8 million mobile internet connections and 606,000 fixed broadband subscribers.
Public reaction on social media is largely positive.
Thank you @RW_UNP for taking part in bringing @google #ProjectLoon to Sri Lanka. Thank you for keeping the promise. #Loon4LKA
— Udana Wijesuriya (@SilverOptimus) July 28, 2015
OMG #Google #Loon is launching in #Srilanka !! Like Christmas has come early! lol #Lka
— IndulekhaNanayakkara (@InduNan) July 28, 2015
One conspiracy theorist, however, is sceptical of Google’s ‘plan’ to spy on more people.
Where are all the “patriots” with their conspiracy theories about Google spying on Sri Lanka with their doomsday balloons? I’m disappoint.
— Himal Kotelawala (@himalkk) July 29, 2015
Greater access to Google will mean more people locked into its advert-based network.
The positive benefits are thought to hugely outweigh this minor criticism.
The American tech giant launched Project Loon in June 2013 to carry out tests in New Zealand, with the aim of providing internet access to those living in remote rural areas.
With Loon getting under way in Sri Lanka, Google will be able to expand the project to connect more people in other parts of the world, including Africa and South America.