Google blimps set to make Africa Wi-Fi-ready

By Randell Suba , May 28, 2013 08:58 AM EDT

In line with its goal of helping a billion more people to go online, Google unveiled its intentions to deploy blimps that will beam down Wi-Fi signals to remote areas in Africa and Southeast Asia. The hovering network can also boost Internet speeds in metropolitan areas.

The blimps will serve as high-altitude platforms to transmit signals that can cover vast swaths of land - hundreds of square miles. The search engine giant has been experimenting on a cost-effective setup that consists of Android smartphones with power-efficient microprocessors, according to a report on Wired.

Google is also looking into other wireless systems using satellites and other wireless technologies to bring Internet to the remote areas.

"There's not going to be one technology that will be the silver bullet," an unnamed source told Amir Efrati of the Wall Street Journal. The source meant that every market might need a unique solution to give people access to Internet. A Google representative declined to comment on the information.

In support of the moves of the Mountain View, California company, lobbyists are approaching regulators in target countries so they would allow Google to use TV frequencies. The lower frequencies will allow signals to penetrate structures such as buildings and reach longer distances than Wi-Fi.

Google conducted a small-scale experiment on TV white spaces to broadcast wireless Internet service to schools in Cape Town. The technology giant demonstrated that it can tap into these low frequencies without causing any interference to broadcasting channels.  To do this, it used a software that can detect unused frequencies on the spectrum.

"The technology is well suited to provide low cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure, and for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas," according to a blog of Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda of Google South Africa.

Google aims to control how people connect to the Internet across different regions in the world. This will naturally bring more users to its search engine, YouTube, and Google Play store. In turn, this will bring up more exposure to Google's online advertising, which represents $43.5 billion of the company's annual revenue.

More Internet users will also mean more data that Google can use to evaluate consumer behavior.  Wireless networks will also allow Google to go behind wireless carriers and cable companies to penetrate markets with very good potentials.

From a different perspective, Internet access will benefit the citizens of the target areas. It will help leap economies, improve communication, uplift education systems, and help deliver better services.

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