We’ve already heard that Google may be working on developing wireless networks in emerging markets. Perhaps as part of that initiative, the search giant is testing high-altitude balloons that could bring Internet access to places with no infrastructure in place.
The technology is in very early days, but they did manage to get balloons, carried by the wind, at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster.
Google doesn’t want these balloons to stay in one place as that would increase the cost and complexity. Rather, the idea is to let balloons sail freely on the winds while maintaining a degree of control to spread the coverage uniformly across the target areas.
The company has started a pilot program in the Canterbury area of New Zealand with 50 testers trying to make internet connections to the balloons. A total of 30 balloons are being released as part of the trial.
The end goal is to allow mobile users to connect to the balloons and get connectivity where there is none today…
As a reminder, this isn’t the first “balloon-powered” initiative around — Japan’s SoftBank is doing something similar with the idea to provide coverage to disaster areas.