Nokia revealed it played a key role in enabling Project Loon’s connectivity restoration efforts in Puerto Rico, contributing software which allowed the balloons to provide LTE service.
Working alongside Google’s X lab team as well as AT&T and T-Mobile, Nokia said it overcame some unique challenges to integrate its LTE software into the base station carried by Project Loon’s balloons.
Ken Riordan, Mobile Networks business project manager for Nokia, explained: “Getting our solution to a point where we could put it into a balloon has required real agility and an out-of-the-box mindset. With a network of stratospheric balloons, everything has to be solar powered.”
In addition to solar power, Riordan reported the software was also configured to run on batteries. He said the end product was capable of delivering “hundreds of gigabytes to those without internet connectivity”.
Nokia stated it also delivered LTE software during a previous Project Loon deployment in the wake of flooding in Peru earlier this year.
Speaking to Mobile World Live during the inaugural MWC Americas event in September, Project Loon head Alistair Westgarth explained Nokia’s role in Peru was similar to Puerto Rico in terms of providing “some significant software components” which connected to the core network developed by the Google division.
Project Loon is designed to provide cellular connectivity to areas hit by disasters and other areas with access issues using balloons flown in the stratosphere to beam signals to local operators’ ground-based networks.
The system was one of many connectivity restoration efforts to be launched in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The storm wiped out 95 per cent of cell sites on the island in late September: nearly three months later, the Federal Communications Commission reported 17.6 per cent of sites remain out of service. Five out of 78 counties still have more than 50 per cent of cell sites offline.