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Project Loon: Google’s Sky-High Hope for the Future of the Internet

7 May, 2014 | Article Source: Rob LaPointe  |   (No Comments) | 15,699 Views

Google’s project Loon is a Google X project which aims to use high altitude balloons to distribute internet access to places that lack network infrastructure. It’s a huge undertaking, and there are a lot of possible reasons why it could fail. At TechCrunch Disrupt this week, Google’s Astro Teller talked a bit about project Loon as an example of turning obstacles into opportunities. Specifically, their problem was that they needed a slice of harmonized spectrum in order to create their network—without that they’d have no bandwidth for wireless transmissions, just some useless floating antenna with nothing connected to them.

But now they’ve chosen a different mode of operation in which they rent from existing telcos. This makes the whole project more likely to work well—more bandwidth for users and less animosity from existing telcos. Seems like a potential win-win kind of scenario. So riding that wave of optimism, now seems like a great time to think about what happens if project Loon succeeds in it’s mission to connect a remarkable 2 of every 3 people on the planet.

Loon Opportunities

From Google’s perspective, they obviously have a lot to gain from increased internet use. Fortunately, they aren’t the only ones. Hardly anyone will suffer due to increased connectivity in emerging markets, but the infrastructure problem thus far has been pretty insurmountable. If Loon succeeds, there will be a major influx of internet users (with 3g comparable connection speeds—not exactly cutting edge, but certainly “good enough” for basic use). There will be a great deal of demand for new web/mobile experiences specially tailored for them.

Entrepreneurs should see this as a huge opportunity, and there will undoubtedly be a ton of competition in those new markets when Loon finally goes live. While North America and Europe generally take the spotlight when it comes to new technologies, you can’t discount the potential of the smaller markets. Arguably the biggest startup success story in recent history, WhatsApp, made its fortune by focusing on emerging markets and under-developed countries. And just like WhatsApp with Facebook, any successful startups who move on the new markets will undoubtedly be targeted for acquisition by major companies looking for a way in.

Here at SDI we see Loon as the catalyst for an entire industry, an expansion of the connected services that have become so vital in our own day-to-day lives. It’s not every day that something with so much potential appears so plausible, and we intend to watch Loon closely.

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