With increasing likelihood that Google’s Project Loon, which has been testing the use of unmanned balloon constellations to provide Internet access across the global south, new wholesale partnerships are likely, if and when commercial operations commence.
Project Loon already is testing use of Long Term Evolution mobile networks and towers for backhaul with Telstra in Australia, Telefonica in Latin America and with Vodafone in New Zealand.
Those tests also presumably rely on use of LTE smartphones as the user equipment.
If and when commercial launch happens, a few different business models are possible. Google could supply mobile operators with wholesale access to the balloon fleets, with the mobile operator brands being used at retail.
The mobile operators could sell wholesale backhaul services to Project Loon’s commercial operation, with Google the branded Internet services supplier.
Alternatively, mobile operators could partner with Google to provide branded services under new names.
Partnership with mobile operators probably does not solve all issues Google might face in getting clearance to use backhaul frequencies, but plausibly solves most issues related to rights to use backhaul frequencies between cell towers and the balloons.
Should a commercial version of Project Loon launch, the Internet access business across the global south will face new opportunities and challenges.
In conjunction with new low earth orbit satellite constellations, and possibly use of unmanned aerial vehicles or new services based on high-throughput satellites, the number of potential platforms for Internet access is set to multiply, across the global south.