Nokia LTE technology takes flight with Project Loon in Puerto Rico

Project Loon (X)
The Project Loon team is seen preparing Loon flight systems. (Project Loon)

Nokia is letting the world know that its technology is being used by Project Loon engineers to help recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Working with Project Loon, which is part of X, the innovation lab within Alphabet, Nokia is providing LTE technology that is actually inside the balloons that Loon is flying to provide internet connectivity. AT&T and T-Mobile are working with Loon as well to provide connectivity in the area.

Loon started launching balloons in Nevada and navigating them to Puerto Rico in the weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory. The Loon team worked with the government of Puerto Rico, as well as the FCC, FAA, FEMA, other spectrum partners and international aviation authorities, to bring service to the region.

RELATED: T-Mobile joins AT&T in collaborating with Project Loon in Puerto Rico

This is actually the second time Nokia has joined with X to restore communication services after a disaster. The balloons that floated over Peru earlier this year also used Nokia’s LTE software for enabling the balloons to deliver improved LTE service, noted Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth in a blog in May.  

Nokia said getting its solution to a point where it could put it into a balloon required real agility and an out-of-the-box mindset. “With a network of stratospheric balloons, everything has to be solar powered," explained Ken Riordan, Mobile Networks business project manager for Nokia, in a new post. "Working in collaboration with X, we tuned our high performance, high capacity LTE software to work on a platform that runs on solar panels and batteries. As a result, we can help deliver hundreds of gigabytes to those without internet connectivity. We hope these efforts offer some measure of relief to Puerto Rico during this very difficult time.”

RELATED: Project Loon delivers basic internet to 100K in Puerto Rico

An early FCC communications report showed that 95.2% of cell sites were out of service in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck in September. As of Dec. 13, the FCC’s status report on Maria showed that 17.6% of cell sites were still out of service, down from 22.1% on Dec. 11.

Last month, Project Loon reported delivering basic internet service to more than 100,000 people in Puerto Rico, up from an earlier figure of 10,000.