In the race to provide internet to some of the most remote corners of the Earth, Google’s managing director for South East Asia and India, Rajan Anandan, has announced that the company is in talks with local telecom providers to beam internet access from floating balloons in the sky.
Unlike Facebook, Google plans to provide unlimited internet access via what it calls Project Loon, having secured support for the project from the government late last year.
Although it is not expected that the tech giant shall provide internet access for free, it is hoped that the project should help one billion people get connected to the internet in one of the world’s largest and poorest countries.
Speaking to the Economic Times Anandan said of the project:
To me Loon works but at a simplistic level, it is infrastructure in the sky. And we’ll partner with a local telco. because the actual provisioning of the service is done by a local telco.
So, we’re talking to a number of local telcos. We can’t do a Loon pilot without partnering with a local telco. We are talking to a number of them.
The news of course, comes less than a month after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced that it had prohibited the practice of offering select applications or internet services at no cost – otherwise known as zero-rating.
Although Facebook has argued that its service, named Free Basics, is philanthropic, it has been criticised for not really being “free internet”, as it includes low-data versions of Facebook and services from other developers that must be submitted to the company for review.
In a lengthy post, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, stated that he was “disappointed” with India’s decision and that, “connecting India is an important goal that we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet.”
Whatever happens, Google still has significant barriers to overcome, such as figuring out how to make its services affordable to a country where 58 per cent of its population lives on less than $3.10 per day.