In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, News, Spectrum

Starting next year, the top three mobile network operators in Indonesia–Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata–will test Project Loon— balloons to deliver Long Term Evolution 4G signals across the country.

Sri Lanka might be going further, and reportedly is planning on relying on Project Loon to cover the island for Internet access, starting as early as March 2016. There would seem to be some significant issues to be settled, if that timetable is to be kept.

Some important details have been withheld. Google says LTE is the signal interface, but it is unlikely the signals will be delivered directly to mobile phones, but to fixed receivers, much as a fixed wireless system would do.

That suggests the downlink frequency could be frequency translated before being retransmitted around the antenna as a lower-frequency or compatible LTE frequency suitable for mobile handsets.

So though mobile operators would be logical partners, they are not the only logical partners. Fixed network telcos might arguably be better positioned to serve as on-the-ground sales, installation and support partners.

Presumably, in addition to technical and operational support tests, the mobile operators will be developing commercial service plans and deployment methods.

One logical approach might be to deliver the Project Loon signals to the equivalent of small cell sites, retransmitting the signal locally as any small LTE cell would do. In other cases it might make sense to redistribute signals in the form of Wi-Fi, or some combination of LTE and Wi-Fi.

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