A base station on a balloon? This is actually a reality for Project Loon – part of X, an innovation lab within Alphabet – and Nokia is playing a key role. With the recent destruction in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria, Nokia is providing its LTE technology in the balloons to help Project Loon, AT&T and T-Mobile enable emergency LTE connectivity to the U.S. territory of some 3.4 million people. An early FCC communications report showed that 95.2% of cell sites were out of service in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.

Although Project Loon is an experimental technology designed to extend internet connectivity to rural and remote areas, this is the second time X and Nokia have played a part in disaster recovery to restore communication services. Earlier this year, balloons floated over Peru to deliver basic internet services to thousands of people affected by widespread flooding. The integration of Nokia’s proven LTE software meant that the balloons could deliver improved LTE service.

Getting our solution to a point where we could put it into a balloon has required real agility and an out-of-the-box mindset,” said Ken Riordan, Mobile Networks business project manager for Nokia. “With a network of stratospheric balloons, everything has to be solar powered. Working in collaboration with X, we tuned our high performance, high capacity LTE software to work on a platform that runs on solar panels and batteries. As a result, we can help deliver hundreds of gigabytes to those without internet connectivity. We hope these efforts offer some measure of relief to Puerto Rico during this very difficult time.”

Project Loon
Project Loon
Images are courtesy of Project Loon