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Biotechnology

Google's Project Loon floating to Indonesia for tests

SILICON VALLEY -- Alphabet, the parent company of Google, announced Wednesday that tests of a project to provide Internet connectivity via balloons will be carried out in Indonesia starting next year.

     Google's secretive X lab will collaborate with three of Indonesia's leading telecom companies -- Telkom Indonesia unit Telkomsel, XL Axiata and Indosat -- which all signed memorandums of understanding with the research arm on Wednesday.

     The former Google X first announced Project Loon in 2013 and has already conducted tests in New Zealand, Australia and Brazil in cooperation with regional telecommunications companies. Sri Lanka has also decided to participate.

     Sky-based connectivity via balloons is a way to provide Internet service in regions where optical fibers and base stations are difficult to install. Indonesia fits the bill, comprised as it is of roughly 17,000 islands. The nation is the fourth most populous in the world, but only one out of three Indonesians can connect to the Internet and the majority of those are stuck with 2G speeds.

     For the tests in Indonesia, a number of balloons will be floated at a height of around 20,000 meters and used as smartphone base stations to provide high-speed LTE service.

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