Google is talking up a new technology that it is testing out to help Project Loon bring connectivity to unconnected regions. The new technology is called Free Space Optical communications or FSOC. The tech uses light beams to deliver high-speed, high-capacity internet connectivity over long distances. Google says that it is just like a fiber optic cable, only without the cable. Ditching the cable means none of the time and cost involved with laying fiber-optic cable, which is very expensive.
Google says that with FSOC boxes, the hardware can be placed kilometers apart on roofs or towers, and the signal is then beamed directly between the boxes. The lack of cabling means that data can easily overcome obstacles like rivers, roads, and railways. Google's X company has been using a small team over the last few months to work on the tech.
The team is working with AP State FiberNet, which is a telecom company in the Andhra Pradesh state in India, where over 5 million people live right now. In that state, less than 20% of the residents have access to broadband and the state government has committed to connecting 12 million homes and government organizations by 2019.
AP State FiberNet will be rolling out over 2,000 FSOC links that were created by X. Those links will be used as the high-bandwidth backbone for the network to connect the rural area. The links will fix gaps in the access points currently available like cell-towers and Wi-Fi hotspots that are used by thousands of people.
X plans to have a small team of engineers and experts in Andhra Pradesh to support the implementation in 2018. The first test of the FSOC links system came with the tech tied to Project Loon balloons. The solution was proven to work when it sent out a copy of the flick Real Genius across over 100 kilometers between balloons. Those same Project Loon balloons were deployed over Puerto Rico to help restore communications after the devastating hurricane earlier this year.