Can mobile service providers across South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania get Long Term Evolution coverage at an order of magnitude lower costs by partnering with Google’s Project Loon? Possibly.
In recent tests, Project Loon has partnered with mobile service providers with in-place LTE towers to provide backhaul to Project Loon balloons.
By definition, some LTE tower infrastructure is required, as those towers provide uplink to the balloons.
But the balloons then provide LTE coverage directly to LTE-capable handsets. At this point, it likely makes sense for mobile service providers to source wholesale retail capacity on the balloons, which essentially substitute for fixed mobile cell sites.
The mobile service provider networks and towers, on the other hand, will provide Project Loon with backhaul.
Some time in 2015 or 2016, if all goes according to plan, Google believes it will be able to create a continuous, 50-mile-wide ring of Internet service around the globe, initially focusing on potential customers across southern Africa, southern Australia, New Zealand and southern Latin America, and supplied by Project Loon, the constellation of planned unmanned balloons.
The general plan seems to be to pioneer LTE service acorss relatively sparse areas before expanding to more-populous areas.
Google estimates the cost of coverage to be an order of magnitude less than building a network of cell towers to provide equivalent coverage.
Although Project Loon initially tested Wi-Fi as the communications protocol, it has since switched to Long Term Evolution, making mobile service providers logical partners.
Google says it can now deliver data at 5 Mbps to mobile phones, or 22 Mbps to fixed antennas.