Economy

Google balloons to help restore Puerto Rico's cell networks

Google balloons to help restore Puerto Rico's cell networks

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago, Reuters reported.

Late yesterday, Google parent Alphabet received permission from the FCC to use balloons to provide Puerto Rico with emergency cellular coverage.

"The goal of the [Special Temporary Authority] is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria", the license reads. "The Hurricane Recovery Task Force will allow us to do just that". Thousands of phone towers were destroyed in Puerto Rico due to the hurricane, and Google will fly 30 balloons over the island to restore phone communication.

Alphabet has confirmed it plans to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to support the restoration of "limited communications capability" in the U.S. unincorporated territory.

Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello seems open to the idea but there will be a few regulatory and political hurdles to overcome first before Tesla's SolarCity firm can get to work.

Thanks to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's cellular infrastructure has been badly damaged.

The company had previously conducted connectivity tests in Australia, New Zealand and several South American countries.

In a statement given to Engadget, a spokesperson for Alphabet's X lab said the team needs to work with a partner network of a local telecom, like Telefonica, to make it all work. Now around 10 percent of residents on the island have power. As most of the smartphones are not capable of transcoding Band 8 LTE signals, the OEMs are necessarily required to push an OTA update for every smartphone in Puerto Rico.