Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sri Lanka to Provide Google Project Loon Internet Access

Sri Lanka has become the first country to support deployment of Google Project Loon-based Internet access.

The initiative is reportedly going to offer free access across the entire country.

Whether that is correct or not is unclear to some of us. Some reports suggest a wholesale network is envisioned, with mobile operators and other ISPS able to buy access.

Though that does not necessarily work against the notion of "free access," it suggests access will not ordinarily be provided free of charge by all potential ISPs, though some likely will try to do so.

Many details remain unclear. Project Loon recently has been testing Long Term Evolution 4G access, havind concluded that direct use of the Wi-Fi protocol was impractical.

The extent of 4G across Sri Lanks might be an issue. Involvement of mobile operators therefore would seem to be imperative, but nothing so far has been released about mobile operator participation.

The other logical approach would be to use 3G protocols rather than 4G.

“The entire Sri Lankan island--every village from (southern) Dondra to (northern) Point Pedro--will be covered with affordable high speed internet using Google Loon’s balloon technology,” said Sri Lanka Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera.

Officials also said local ISPs will have access to the balloons, reducing their operational costs.

According to Muhunthan Canagey, head of local authority the Information and Communication Technology Agency, Google is expected to finish sending up the balloons by next March 2016.

The agreement between Google and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) did not immediately detail any other commercial agreements, such as whether the services will be sold at wholesale to retail ISPs and mobile service providers, and if so, on what terms.

But it will be tough to compete with “free,” if Sri Lanka’s government itself provides free access at speeds comparable to mobile Internet access.

There are 2.8 million mobile Internet subscribers and 606,000 fixed line Internet subscribers among Sri Lanka's more than 20 million population.

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