Sri Lanka today said it would buy a 25 per cent stake in a joint venture with Google, to deliver a high-speed Internet service powered by balloons which will make the country first in the world to have universal internet access.
Telecommunications minister Harin Fernando said the tests for Google’s ambitious Project Loon would take place later this month that will provide free internet through a network of high-altitude balloons at Ratmalana, a suburb of Colombo and could last upto a year.
Fernando said the Sri Lanka government will buy a 25 per cent stake and a 10 per cent of the joint venture shares will be offered to the existing telephone service providers in the country.
Official figures show there are 3.3 million mobile Internet connections and 630,000 fixed line Internet subscribers among Sri Lanka’s more than 20 million population. “Our objective is to extend coverage so that the entire island will be covered,” Fernando said. “With competition, tariffs will also come down.”
The helium-filled balloons, once in the stratosphere, will be twice as high as commercial airliners and barely visible to the naked eye. The balloons will have a lifespan of about 180 days, but can be recycled, said Fernando who visited Google’s testing facility at Silicon Valley.
A deal was signed between Sri Lanka and Google on July 28, according to which free Long-Term Evolution (LTE) connections will be made available across the island nation by March 2016, making it the first country in the world to have universal internet access.