Sri Lanka to recommence discussions on the halted Google Loon Project shortly, says Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure Minister
Sri Lanka’s Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Minister Harin Fernando has reportedly said that the Google Loon Project, which came to a halt with a communications balloon coming down in February 2016, is expected to recommence based on the outcome of discussions scheduled with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
According to Fernando, the discussions with ITU will iron out the licensing issue enabling Sri Lanka to have the Google Loon project back in the country.
“The Google Loon project was intended to cover the entire Sri Lanka with 4G and to reduce the number of towers. The balloon didn’t crash but it was brought down. Unfortunately, Sri Lankans took this as a joke. Google is a large company with an economy larger than our national economy. Now there is a licensing issue raised by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL). We are meeting the ITU this week for a solution. As soon as the matter is sorted we are looking at bringing the Google Loon project back to Sri Lanka,” Fernando has reportedly said.
According to reports, prior to launching Google Loon in Sri Lanka, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) entered into an agreement with Google Loon LLC and its affiliates Lotus Flare Ltd., Rama Co. to conduct testing of the balloon within Sri Lankan airspace.
“The Government of Sri Lanka has not incurred any costs in this project. The balloon which entered into Sri Lankan airspace did not crash but it was a controlled, preplanned landing with the involvement of the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka. The balloon has nothing to do with the WiFi hotspots the Government promised,” the Minister has added.
Project Loon is a research and development programme being developed by X (formerly Google X) with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building.
The Sri Lankan government has continuously expressed its desire to engage in introducing the country to the next generation of digital communication. The recommencement of the discussions on the Google Loon Project is one such endeavor that would improve the country’s digital infrastructure. Therefore, foreign companies engaged in providing digital communications services could explore investment opportunities in the fields of digital infrastructure and ICT in Sri Lanka.
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