India’s government is expected to soon allow Google to run a four-day pilot test of its ambitious Project Loon in the country.
The Communications and IT Ministry is holding talks with Google this week about giving its approval to conduct a pilot in Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra, the Economic Times reported.
The newspaper quoted a government official as saying it wants to test as many alternative models of providing internet connectivity in remote and rural areas as possible. The National Informatics Centre is responsible for finding a suitable location for the pilot and for setting other requirements.
In March Google confirmed it was in talks with a number of Indian operators about launching the high-altitude balloon project in the country to expand internet connectivity to rural and remote areas.
Loon is an ambitious project to use balloons to provide high-speed internet connectivity, and has so far been tested by operators such as Telefonica, Telstra and Vodafone. It uses high altitude balloons that fly freely 20km above the earth’s surface, serving as floating mobile phone towers.
Google said in October it has “almost perfected” its balloon technology. The same month it announced its first Loon partnership after forging an agreement with Indonesia’s three largest mobile operators – Telkomsel, Indosat and XL Axiata – to deliver 4G coverage to remote areas of the country’s 17,000 islands from balloons.
Its southern neighbour Sri Lanka announced plans in February to take a 25 per cent stake in Google’s Project Loon in the country in exchange for the spectrum the government will allocate for the project. The government first announced plans to test the technology in July 2015.