Alphabet’s team announced today that they have officially deployed their LTE balloons to Puerto Rico. In a blog post published by Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth, the company says that it’s working with the Federal Communications Commission, FEMA, Federal Aviation Authority, and other cellular spectrum and aviation authorities to bring connectivity to parts of Puerto Rico that are still struggling post Hurricane Maria.
While Project Loon team has launched their balloons, their carrier partner will be AT&T. The wireless carrier is helping the Project Loon team use its fleet of stratospheric helium balloons to bring functionality such as text messaging and minor web browsing access to Puerto Rico residents that have LTE-equipment smartphones.
“We’ve never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace, and we’re grateful for the support of AT&T and the many other partners and organizations that have made this possible,” Westgarth writes. “Thanks to the Pan-American and Puerto Rican governments’ aviation authorities and air traffic controllers, who enabled us to send small teams of balloons from our launch site in Nevada to Puerto Rico. Thanks also to SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision who helped quickly set up essential ground infrastructure so that the balloons could get internet connectivity.”
As of early October, FCC gave the Project Loon the green light to operate in Puerto Rico and help them restore wireless functionality. Nearly 83 percent of cell towers are still down.