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Sri Lanka is considering Google's Project Loon for country-wide internet coverage (updated)

Sri Lanka is considering Google's Project Loon for country-wide internet coverage (updated)

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Project Loon is undoubtably one of the most "Google" projects that Google is working on — Wi-Fi being delivered by giant floating balloons is certainly a unique approach to getting internet to hard-to-reach areas. While Project Loon still sits in the Google X "moonshots" lab, it got a vote of confidence from the nation of Sri Lanka, which announced yesterday it was investigating using Google's Project Loon balloons to cover the country with internet access. If this comes to fruition, Sri Lanka would be the first country to have universal internet coverage; the country's relatively small size (just over 25,000 square miles) certainly makes that easier, but it would still be a big deal for Project Loon.

Despite some reports making this arrangement between Google and Sri Lanka sound like a done deal, however, we've learned that there's only essentially a MOU (memorandum of understanding) in place at this point. It's a necessary part of having discussions about bringing Project Loon to the country, but that doesn't mean that this is a done deal yet — it only means that Sri Lanka and Google will continue to discuss how this could possibly work and hopefully get to the testing phase.

According to AFP, the plan would involve Google working with Sri Lanka's local internet providers to let them use Project Loon balloons to enhance their service; it sounds like Project Loon won't be an internet free-for-all for whoever wants it. AFP also claimed that individual balloons are slated to be in the air for 100 days at this point, with hopes to start launching these balloons by next March. Given the early phase the project is in, however, this timeline sounds aggressive — tests by next March seem plausible, but a full launch is unlikely. Still, it's an idea with some merit: just over 3 million of Sri Lanka's 20 million citizens have any sort of internet access, so Project Loon could change things for a huge part of the country should it launch successfully.

Update, 7/30/15, 2:00PM ET: This post has been updated with more details on the initial agreement between Google and Sri Lanka.

Correction, 7/30/15, 2:00PM ET: This post originally said that Project Loon delivered "3G" internet speeds, rather than the LTE speeds it is capable of transmitting,