Google improves wireless internet in Kenya with ‘fiber-free fiber’

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Google is testing various options for transferring data over long and short distances. Not so long ago, the company was actively developing Project Loon, but, unfortunately, came to the conclusion that this project would not be commercially viable. Therefore, despite the obvious success in the development of this technology, it was decided to close Project Loon. Perhaps it was simply postponed until better times, but when they come is unclear.

However, the company has another project, no less interesting, although not so global. This is an experimental wireless network based on light. This is not an optical fiber, the basis of the system is a beam of light that is focused on a remote receiving point – the receiving station. Now Google has been able to achieve success in the development of the project.

What is the project?

It was called Project Taara, within its framework, the company was able to achieve data transmission over a distance of about 20 km without deploying a wired infrastructure. The tests showed a good result, and if the field tests go well, the project will be expanded to other countries on the African continent.

Google does not work alone, but together with other companies and organizations, including Econet, Liquid Telecom and Econet Group. Now Taara is being implemented in Kenya, so most of the partners are African companies and organizations.

The city maintains contact with the village on the other side of the river using a laser beam. The receiving station in the village receives the optical signal and converts it into a radio signal. The system bandwidth is 20Gbps+. This is enough for thousands of people to connect to the network and watch YouTube at the same time.


The GIF is a bit simplified compared to reality. In fact, the project uses not one link, but a chain of light base stations, which are located in settlements without communication or with poor quality communication. A base station tower is much simpler than those used to house cellular base stations. Accordingly, such objects can be placed almost everywhere, the only condition is that the base station should be located on a hill.

This way of transmitting information saves on laying expensive network infrastructure. The technology is called Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC).

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The nuances of the technology and the success of the project

In general, there is nothing particularly innovative, since lasers were used in a number of regions of the CIS even at the dawn of “home locales”. Some craftsmen have used lasers from laser pens, providing an Internet link to objects that cannot be connected with a regular cable for one reason or another. Of course, these are not very long-range systems, but in critical situations they save.

In Africa, the Internet and network infrastructure are not particularly developed, although, of course, there are regions where the Internet is available and the channel bandwidth is quite high.

One of them – tuning the receiver to the transmitter, was solved. The system is fully automated, so that communication, subject to the optimal installation of towers, is not interrupted. There are no failures in the operation of such a network even if a bird flies through the beam or it rains. The laser network was able to transfer about 700 TB of data with 99.9% uptime.

As for Taara, according to the developers, this is not an independent technology that provides Internet communication in remote and hard-to-reach regions. And already such a hybrid network is perfect for African conditions.

In July this year, the company green-lit Project Loon, which gave the people of Kenya access to mobile high-speed internet via huge balloons hovering in the stratosphere. This time, Alphabet “X” lab started work on Project Taara, which uses the developments of Space Communications Technology (FSOC). It has already been tested in Andhra Pradesh in India. It implies the reception of signals by base stations from probes by optical means.

In a presentation video, Project Taara CEO Mahe Krishnaswami stated that the team is already officially working with telecommunications provider Econet in Africa. Its base stations will allow receiving and distributing the Internet in the cities and villages of Kenya. The advantage of this particular method of distributing the Internet is that it does not require a physical connection to base stations, for example, optical fiber.

The working height for the probes is 20 kilometers, there are no rains or planes on it, so nothing can interfere with the probes. And by launching them in large numbers, it will be possible to cover almost the entire Earth with high-speed Internet access, even in corners where it is impossible to access the Network in other ways.

Base stations with photo sensors to receive a signal from the probes will be installed on roofs, poles and trees, since it is important that there are no physical barriers between the balloon and the receiver.

The throughput of this method of data transmission will be 20 Gbps. According to the representative of the team, this is enough for a thousand residents of a small town to watch videos on YouTube at the same time.

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