Project Loon for U.S. Internet Access Market?

Will Google’s Project Loon, providing Internet access services from balloons, be a meaningful access platform across the United States? That might seem as fanciful as the notion of using balloon-based access.

But Google already is saying it expects deployment across the United States, not simply across the Southern Hemisphere.

A Google executive says it has “almost perfected” its Loon balloon technology, with the first deal with operators set to be announced “hopefully very soon”, said Wael Fakharany, Google regional business lead.

“The operators control the distribution, marketing, OSS, BSS, CRM – the customer relationship is with the telcos. We are just the infrastructure provider,” he said. “There is a viable commercial business model and is based on skin-in-the-game, sharing costs and revenue with operators for completely untouched potential.”

Telefonica, Telstra and Vodafone are among the mobile operators to have tested the Project Loon platform so far.

Fakharany said Project Loon commercial operations are expected not only in the Southern Hemisphere, where its initial tests have taken place, but also in the Northern Hemisphere, including, notably, the United States.

“The idea right now, which we are very, very excited about, is that as we enter 2016 it’s all about scalability,” said Fakharany. “It’s all about marketing this as fast as possible not only in rural Africa, but rural India, parts of the US.”

That latter clause might be the most-significant portion of the statement. While Google Fiber continues to slowly add metro areas to it footprint, many would note that Google Fiber will take years and billions in new capital to build a business big enough to challenge the largest telcos and cable TV operators.

Project Loon will accelerate the number of households able to buy Internet access from Google, in less-dense areas beyond the Google Fiber footprint.
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