Contxto – What do you get when you cross a multinational tech company with a telecom firm? If you guessed internet-enabling balloons, you’re right.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is teaming up with the Peruvian brank of Spanish telecommunications giant, Telefónica. The purpose of this partnership is to provide internet access to one of the most remote locations of Peru: Loreto, located within the Amazon rainforest.
We have the overlap of each business’ own projects to thank; Alphabet’s Loon and Telefónica’s Internet for Everyone—”Internet para Todos,” as it’s known in Spanish.
Full of hot air?
To achieve this objective, helium-filled balloons will launch into the air, floating 20km above the ground. These airborne towers will carry antennae that will in turn capture wireless broadband signals. This futuristic canopy will grant internet access for over 130,000 users down on the ground.
The Peruvian government’s approval is still pending but if approved, it would be Alphabet’s first foray into Latin America for a longstanding commercial contract of this nature. Moreover, the partners hope to expand this initiative to over 6 million Peruvians with limited connectivity by 2021. That’s almost 20 percent of the country.
Internet access as a first step
According to a study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), internet access in the region has risen by an impressive 35 percent between 2006 and 2016. This translates to 56 percent of the region’s inhabitants gaining access to the internet within a decade.
However, this clearly implies that almost half of the population in Latin America is still digitally excluded.
The same report also suggests that there is a major difference in internet access when comparing urban and rural settings. This represents a significant constraint, not only to those unable to access an invaluable resource, but also by limiting the region’s ability to develop tech-based solutions.
So hypothetically speaking, if the joint project were to work, it would be a major game-changer for rural Latin America. A hidden treasure trove for potential startup development.