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Day 36 – Q 3. What are ‘internet balloons’? Why was it in news recently? Discuss. 

  • IASbaba
  • July 21, 2020
  • 0
GS 3, Sci & Technology, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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3. What are ‘internet balloons’? Why was it in news recently? Discuss. 

इंटरनेट गुब्बारेक्या हैं? यह हाल ही में खबरों में क्यों था? चर्चा करें।

Demand of the question:

It expects students to discuss various perspectives of ‘internet balloons’ and present a logical arguments regarding its advantages and disadvantages.

Introduction:

Billions of people around the world are still without internet access. Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space, delivering connectivity to people in un-served and underserved communities around the world. In short, internet balloon is a device which provides internet connectivity while floating in the air.

Body: 

Recently, A fleet of high-altitude balloons started delivering internet service to Kenya , extending online access to tens of thousands of people in the first-ever commercial deployment of the technology.

  • The balloons, which hover about 12 miles up in the stratosphere — well above commercial airplanes — will initially provide a 4G LTE network connection to a nearly 31,000-square-mile area across central and western Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi.
  • It is now being fast-tracked to help improve communications during the corona virus pandemic.
  • Loon, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, launched 35 balloons to provide internet connectivity in Kenya.

Technology used in internet balloons:

  • Delivering connectivity from balloons flying 20 km up in the stratosphere poses a unique set of engineering challenges. To expand connectivity to un-served and underserved areas around the world, Loon combines advancements in materials science, atmospheric modelling, machine learning, communications systems, and more.
  • Loon balloons are designed and manufactured to endure the harsh conditions in the stratosphere, where winds can blow over 100 km/hr, and temperatures can drop as low as -90° C.
  • Balloon made from sheets of polyethylene, each tennis court-sized balloon is built to last for well over 100 days before landing back on Earth in a controlled descent.
  • Antennas transmit connectivity from ground stations, across a balloon mesh network, and back down to a user’s LTE phone. A user needs nothing more than a standard LTE phone to connect to a Loon balloon.

Advantages of Internet balloon:

  • Internet balloon bills the service as a cost-effective solution to the difficult challenge of bringing internet access to people in underserved remote areas.
  • This could be effective in scattered  population regions, such as in Africa, where just over 28 percent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people were using the internet in 2019 — the lowest rate in any region worldwide — according to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency.
  • It  would be a cheaper solution than installing fibre optic cables or building mobile phone masts across the areas which contain jungles and mountains.

Disadvantages of Internet balloon:

  • Coverage: Due to its lower height, its signals cover a relatively small area. As a result, many more balloon are needed in order to reach signals to every part of the area.
  • Difficulty for aeroplanes: The Internet balloons float in the stratosphere. As aeroplanes too fly in the stratosphere, Internet balloons pose a serious threat of air disaster if not controlled neatly.
  • Difficulty in Space Studies: The constellations of internet balloons  will make it difficult to observe space objects, and to detect their signals.

Conclusion:

With its high end technology internet balloon can prove to be an essential solution to the problem of expanding internet to the every corner of the world. But, at the same time more improvement is needed in them to reduce their drawbacks and achieving the internet connectivity to all.

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