Loon Inventors Debut Light Beamed Broadband in Africa

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Alphabet, inventors of the Loon Balloon Project, announced last week the experimental subsidiary called  “X,“ and subtitled “Moonshot Factory,” has set up a means of data deployment via light beams. Like fiber, but without the cables, wireless optical communication uses light to transmit high-speed data between two points. 

Last Tuesday, X announced its high-speed optical “Project Taara” is now working with Econet and its subsidiaries, Liquid Telecom and Econet Group, to expand and enhance affordable, high-speed internet to communities across their networks in Sub-Saharan Africa. The beams can span up to nearly 12.5 miles, while providing transfer speeds up to 20 Gbps with high-throughput capabilities that can support 10-100s Gbps data rates.

The company said it became aware of the light beam solution while working on Project Loon. Alphabet said the Loon team needed to figure out a way to create a data link between balloons that were flying over 100 km (62 miles) apart. The team investigated the use of wireless optical communication technology to establish high-throughput links between balloons.  

Taara’s links will begin rolling out across Liquid Telecom’s networks in Kenya first, and will help provide high speed connectivity in places where it’s challenging to lay fiber cables, or where deploying fiber might be too costly or dangerous — for example over rivers, across national parks, or in post-conflict zones. This is the first roll-out of Taara’s technology in Africa and follows a series of pilots in Kenya last year.

According to TechCrunch, the technology is designed to patch gaps in traditional fiber optic networks caused by difficult terrain features such as rivers that would be impossible to span using cable. 

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