Alphabet’s Project Loon technology uses hot air balloons to deliver internet access to places where it might not otherwise be available, including rural communities or hurricane-damaged Peurto Rico.

But Alphabet is working with Indian internet service provider AP State FiberNet to deliver high-speed internet service to millions of customers in India’s Andhra Pradesh state without using balloons.

Instead, the idea is to use lasers.

Project Loon balloons already share data through lasers. Alphabet describes the technology as “just like fiber optic cable, but without the cable,” since the laser light beams are delivered through open air and over long distances.

That does mean you need line of sight for things to work. But you don’t necessarily need a balloon floating thousands of feet in the air. You can put Alphabet’s “Free Space Optical Communications” or FSOC boxes on rooftops or towers and beam signals across rivers, roads, or other obstacles. The solution is cheaper and easier than laying cable across those barriers.

Alphabet says AP State FiberNet will be using 2,000 FSOC links as part of their efforts to get 12 million households and businesses in Andhra Pradesh online by 2019. It’s worth noting that the plan isn’t to build an all-laser network, but rather to build out a network using a variety of technologies including FSOC to reach areas that are not currently well served.

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7 replies on “High-speed internet delivered by lasers coming to rural India (thanks to Alphabet’s Project Loon)”

  1. great,,now we can get broken english non intelligent tech support twice as fast,,

  2. Seems like just PR to me. Doubtful this is more practical and cheaper than RF links.

    1. With beacon-tower-type things you could just about manage to carry internet through prairies. I could just about dream up a Li-Fi type thing with Raspberry Pi node servers on monopole towers talking to other units on the horizon, giving me a solar-powered package that (if sealed against termites and ants, which have a bizarre attraction to electricity) could serve. But it would be spendy, and LOS-only, and you’d still need conventional wifi at the ends of your network.

  3. It’s unclear how they would deal with rain, fog, pollution. Otherwise you can use laser to deliver power and/or data but it’s rather experimental at this stage.

    1. It will face the same problems as light-based communication always has. These also-ran technologies did the same stuff in the same way:
      Night semaphore
      Morse code with flashlight
      If your sensor isn’t looking the right way… Or something is between you and the next relay… Or someone’s lights are covering your signal… Or you didn’t want someone to read every bit… You might have some problems.

      How the heck do you use regular TCP/IP when a low-orbit satellite is part of your relay? Answer: One of those assumptions is wrong. You don’t, or it isn’t 2-way, or it isn’t a (low cost) LEO unit.

      1. It’s possible that you do not understand the term “pollution”, given your reaction and the fact that you can’t even spell it. Maybe go read up and figure out what pollution fully means.

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