Google, now known as Alphabet, has partnered with Indonesia’s three mobile operators, PT Indosat Tbk (ISAT), PT Telekomunikasi Selular and PT XL Axiata Tbk, to begin testing its Project Loon balloons to deliver internet access to remote regions of the country.
Google officials, including co-founder Sergey Brin, and senior members from the three telecom companies signed an agreement on Wednesday to flag off Project Loon in Indonesia.
The country has a population of 250 million people living on 17,000 islands and only 42 million have Internet access.
According to the company statement, Google’s Internet-beaming balloons are ready to take off on the next phase of their mission to deliver online access in regions where most people live offline.
Google said in a blog post, over the next few years, the company hopes Project Loon can partner with local providers to put high-speed LTE Internet connections within reach of more than 100 million, currently unconnected, to read websites, watch videos, or make purchases.
“From Sabang all the way to Merauke, many of these people live in areas without any existing Internet infrastructure, so we hope balloon-powered Internet could someday help give them access to the information and opportunity of the web,” the company said.
The Indonesian expansion follows extensive testing in New Zealand, Australia and remote areas in California and Brazil.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin envisions Project Loon eventually creating millions of jobs around the world to raise the standard of living as they are able to get online.
“The emotional distance of the world is shrinking, thanks to the communications we enjoy today,” said Brin, who oversees the X lab as Alphabet’s president.
Project Loon started in Google’s X lab for off-the-wall projects. The lab is now run by Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.
Project Loon Vice President Mike Cassidy said, according to a Reuters report, the Indonesian partnership marks the first time it will send signals from multiple telecommunications companies through a single balloon, and that it will be the service’s largest deployment to date and could eventually reach 100 million users.
Cassidy said the effort is also a model for how Google will move the product into the commercial market. He said, the telecommunications companies will use the trial period to determine pricing, the rollout and billing while Google works out technical issues, according to the Reuters report.
Before his visit to United States, Indonesia Communications and Information Technology Minister Rudiantara had said several telecommunication operators will sign an agreement with Google on pilot projects of Project Loon balloon.
“The operators will sign an agreement with Google to test internet balloon in Indonesia. Google will use the operators network to implement the plans.” Rudiantra had told DEALSTREETASIA last week.