UPDATE Plagued by lawsuits and short on carriers, Google’s X division is hoping for success after its balloon tower technology was granted an experimental license to operate in an American territory stricken by hurricanes. (see top story)
Project Loon has encountered many obstacles since its creation. Currently, the laboratory is facing litigation by Phoenix, Arizona-based Space Data. The company claims Google feigned interest in acquiring the tech company in order to access trade secrets in 2017. Inside Towersreported in July, that Space Data filed a lawsuit against Google, and persuaded the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel most of Project Loon’s foundational patents.
The technology works like flying cell towers. Balloons hover 12 miles above the Earth and communicate with wireless networks already in place on the ground. However, CNN Money states X is short on partnerships with carriers, which would allow the balloons to operate within the wireless networks on the ground. A spokesperson told Engadget, the balloons are very dependent on existing infrastructure. “To deliver signal to people’s devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network — the balloons can’t do it alone.” When Project Loon provided important coverage in Peru this year during flooding, a previously established partnership with Telefónica allowed Loon to operate quickly and efficiently.
The Project Loon trial is scheduled for the summer of 2019, but it looks like the technology will continue to see use beforehand.