Did you ever hear about Google’s plan to give millions of people access to the Internet by bouncing Wi-Fi from balloons hovering at the edge of space? Well, it’s about to become reality. Google’s first phase public testing of the project – called Project Loon – will likely kick off in India.

Although it might initially have sounded like a creative April Fool’s prank, Project Loon has extensively tested the balloons. In June 2013, in fact, 30 balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island.

Project Loon balloons reach the stratosphere, approximately 20 km above the Earth’s surface, where they provide connectivity to an area on the ground of about 80 kilometres in diameter. That footprint is spread out around the planet to give users uninterrupted connectivity. During the pilot test on South Island, the balloons successfully connected 30 pilot testers to the Internet.

After successful tests, Project Loon will now reportedly head to India to start public testing.

India currently has the world’s second-largest population. However, only about 19 % of its 1,36 billion (2013 census) citizens have Internet access. In addition to that, the statistics portal Statista reports that India has the third-largest online market. The likely inference: better and further-reaching connectivity would increase the market’s growth potential, especially as this sub-continent has less strict media regulations than neighbouring China does.

In an exclusive interview with the Economic Times, Google India chief Rajan Anandan said; “To me, Loon works, but at a simplistic level, it is infrastructure in the sky. And we’ll partner with (local telecommunications companies). Because the actual provisioning of the service is done by a local telco. So, we’re talking to a number of local telcos. We can’t do a Loon pilot without partnering with a local telco. We are talking to a number of them.”

Potentially, this could mean that the coming years might see more than 1 billion new Internet users. Some of them, quite likely, experiencing cat videos for the first time.

Source: Economic Times/Project Loon