Alphabet-owned Loon and Peru-based rural mobile infrastructure operator Internet Para Todos Peru (IpT) have signed a deal that will see high-altitude balloons be used to expand mobile internet access to Telefonica customers living in remote parts of the Amazon by 2020.
As part of the deal, Loon and IpT, which is owned by Telefonica, Facebook, IDB Invest, and CAF, will initially provide service to a specific area within a province known as Loreto where nearly 200,000 people live and lack access to 3G or better service.
Internet para Todos Peru CEO Teresa Gomes said the deal will help bring mobile connectivity to remote populations where typical telco infrastructure does not yet exist.
"This challenge involves reaching difficult access areas with innovative and sustainable technologies that allow us to overcome geographical, technological and economic complexities. Thanks to this agreement with Loon, we will extend the mobile internet access to more Peruvians with disruptive technology," she said in a statement.
See also: Why rural internet programs bring new opportunities for remote workers and businesses (TechRepublic)
The internet coverage will be provided using a network of high-altitude balloons that operate 20 kilometres above sea level, and act as floating cell towers. The internet service is beamed from the ground, before its shared across multiple balloons and then transmitted down to a subscriber's device below using standard LTE signals.
According to Loon, the company along with IpT and Telefonica are working together to secure regulatory approval from Peru's Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) before launching the service. If approved, Peru will be the first Latin America company to deploy Loon on a sustained, non-emergency basis.
In October 2017, Loon was granted permission by the United States Federal Communications Commission to use its balloons to restore connectivity to Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
According to Loon, the balloons were also used in 2017 when the El Nino floods devastated parts of Northern Peru, and again earlier this year when a 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit Peru.
Loon also announced that it is currently awaiting final written regulatory approval to begin flying its stratospheric balloons in Kenya as part of a deal it signed with Telkom Kenya.
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