Google loon to start testing in Sri Lanka this month


Feb 01, 2016 (LBO) – Project Loon from Google x is to launch its preliminary testing in Sri Lanka this month, Managing Director of ICTA, Muhunthan Canagey said.

As per the initial agreement, the maximum test period will be one year and based on the test results a fully fledged agreement is to be signed.

“We will have an entire group of people who will participate in this test and then we will have results from all these individuals,” Canagey said.

“Thereafter we would actually put those tests back to the inter-ministerial committee appointed by the cabinet and get the approval.”

In terms of the agreement, the government will allocate the required spectrum for the project and will obtain a 25 percent share of the company which will be set up for the project.

“There is not a single cent of the government is going to actually put in. In fact we will get the share holding in the company,” Canagey emphasised.

“We, including the finance minister, believe that it’s not about selling spectrum any more; we must get a share of the business so that the state will create value on the big investment assets.”

Project Loon will provide balloon-powered internet access in Sri Lanka with a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space. It is initially designed to connect people in rural and remote areas to help fill in coverage gaps.

One balloon is expected to last over 180 days. Internet service providers can connect their networks through these ‘floating towers’ thus reducing transmission costs.
Canagey added that this disruptive technology lets the market forces to compete for lower prices with higher speeds.

“The whole idea for us is to bring innovative technology to cover the whole country and to increase the speed,” Canagey pointed out.

“When these balloons coming and offering cheaper services the Telcos will start using the balloons,”

“The local base stations will have to start competing and giving much higher band width since these balloons will cover much bigger area,”

“Then you have the base stations manufacturers; we have to reinvent their whole thing and bring down the prices to make sure that they can compete with it,”

“Then the cable operators will start saying that we will give higher capacity. So the cycle keeps changing.” Canagey further said.

Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando told reporters that 90 percent of telecom operators have unofficially agreed the project to go ahead.

“The Capex cost of the Telco operators is going to be very low because they would no longer want to invest on base stations,” Fernando said.

“We have also suggested that they will give the company’s 10 percent shareholding of this particular Google loon project,”

“I don’t see any reason why they should be worrying about it but we have not had any official discussions about it but I will speak to them,”

“But 90 percent of them were completely ok except for one company who has a vested interest I probably think.” Fernando further said.

Read More:

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ICTA plans ambitious digital infrastructure, Google Loon by March