Google has sent its internet-enabled balloons into the stratosphere in the northeastern state of Piauí today (6) as part of its partnership with the Brazilian government to connect remote areas of the country.
Five balloons were launched as part of the experiment in the state capital, Teresina, and close to the Equator. According to Google Brazil president Fabio Coelho, the geographic positioning of the state, as well as its current dry season influenced the location choice.
The five balloons will be floating in the stratosphere for about 100 days, according to Coelho. Today's event follows a previous experiment last month, also in Piauí, when two balloons were launched and one of them provided internet access to a school in the north of the state for about an hour.
Communications minister Paulo Bernardo attended the launch and mentioned that launching the balloons in Piauí was a request from his office, since only 27 percent households in the northeastern state of just over three million people have access to the internet.
Talks between the Brazilian government and Google around using the company's internet-enabled balloons started lin October last year, at the same time the government announced its own plans to use the equipment to take internet access to remote areas of the country.
At the time, minister Bernardo said that he asked the internet giant to produce equipment that could be tested in early 2014 and picked senior officials in the Ministry of Telecommunications and state-owned telco Telebrás to work on the potential partnership.
It is understood that the governmental internet-powered balloons was an idea championed by the former president of Telebrás, Caio Bonilha. Since the executive stepped down in January, it appears that the Google partnership has progressed a lot further.