The jungle book

Google sends broadband across the Congo River via light beams


Alphabet, Google’s parent company, sent broadband across the Congo River to Africa via airborne beams of light, in its latest attempt to provide high-speed internet access to underserved communities.

As part of an initiative called Project Taara, Alphabet transmits data between the cities of Brazzaville (in the Republic of the Congo) and Kinshasa (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), on both sides of the Congo River.

Google said it has closed “a particularly stubborn connectivity gap” between the two cities, which are only about 3 miles apart.

However, connectivity is five times more expensive in Kinshasa as the fiber connection has to travel over 250 miles to bypass the Congo River, the deepest and second fastest river in the world.

Project Taara managed to deliver a total of almost 700TB of data – the equivalent of watching a FIFA World Cup match in HD 270,000 times – in 20 days with 99.9% uptime, a- he declared.

Residents of Kinshasa have experienced speeds of around 20 Gbps, which is “a much better option” than missing out on the benefits of connectivity, the researchers said.

Project Taara uses terminals that emit very narrow and invisible beams of light. These are picked up by other terminals which lock “like a handshake”

Brazzaville and Kinshasa are two cities in different countries of Africa, on either side of the Congo River

Brazzaville and Kinshasa are two cities in different countries of Africa, on either side of the Congo River

TAARA PROJECT

The Taara Project is Alphabet’s attempt to provide high-speed internet access to underserved communities.

Like fiber but without cables, Taara uses light to transmit information at very high speeds through the air in the form of a very narrow and invisible beam.

Taara’s wireless optical communications links, on the other hand, use very narrow and invisible beams of light, emitted from special terminals in the air above the ground, to provide speeds similar to those of fiber.

Taara’s terminals detect the beam of light coming from each other and lock “like a handshake”.

The Taara project is orchestrated by X, formerly Google X – the secret research and development arm of Alphabet.

Baris Erkmen, engineering director for Taara, described the project in a blog post.

Being able to provide high-speed Internet up to 20 gigabits per second (Gbps) is “a much better option” than the millions of people who do not enjoy the benefits of connectivity because the economy of laying cables in their homes. the soil “is just not enough. stack up, ”he said.

“The Taara project’s wireless optical communication links now deliver light-speed connectivity from Brazzaville to Kinshasa across the Congo River,” Erkmen said.

“While we don’t expect to see perfect reliability in all kinds of weather and conditions in the future, we are confident that Taara’s links will continue to provide similar performance and play a key role in bringing connectivity. faster and more affordable to the 17 million people living in these cities.

The Taara project works in a similar way to traditional optical fiber, which uses light to carry data through cables in the ground.

With fiber, the data that makes it possible to establish an Internet connection travels the cables at the speed of light.

WHAT IS BROADBAND OPTICAL FIBER?

Fiber optic cables have tiny tubes that are about as thick as a human hair and are reflective on the inside.

They transfer information by sending flashes of light through the tubes.

This bounces off the reflective walls and along the cable.

These data flashes are then received and interpreted at the other end.

Taara’s wireless optical communications links, on the other hand, use very narrow and invisible beams of light, emitted from special terminals in the air above the ground, to provide speeds similar to those of fiber.

Taara’s terminals detect the beam of light coming from each other and lock together “like a handshake,” Erkmen said, to create a high-bandwidth connection.

In some parts of the world, low visibility caused by elements such as fog and haze would hamper the process, but Brazzaville and Kinshasa have ideal weather conditions for most of the year.

During the Taara project pilots in India, Team X was confronted with the problem of monkeys jostling the Taara terminals.

Erkmen said X has since had to adapt Taara’s capabilities to avoid downtime during such “bumpy realities of operating technology in the physical world.”

The overall mission of the Taara project is to bring speeds similar to those of fiber to unconnected and underserved communities.

“Better tracking accuracy, automated environmental responses and better planning tools are helping Taara’s links deliver reliable high-speed bandwidth to places fiber cannot reach, and helping us connect communities that are cut. traditional means of providing connectivity, ”Erkmen said.

The Congo River (pictured here from the Brazzaville side in the Republic of Congo) is the deepest and second fastest river in the world

The Congo River (pictured here from the Brazzaville side in the Republic of Congo) is the deepest and second fastest river in the world

Visibility requirements for worldwide optical wireless communications (WOC) performance.  Visibility is generally good in the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Visibility requirements for worldwide optical wireless communications (WOC) performance. Visibility is generally good in the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

“We are truly excited about these advancements and look forward to building on them as we continue to develop and refine Taara’s capabilities. ”

Project Taara is the continuation of his Internet balloon business Project Loon, which closed earlier this year.

Project Loon used tennis court-sized balloons that carried solar-powered networking gear above the Earth and broadcast Internet access to the ground.

But the project was no longer commercially viable, the CEO of Alphabet said.

In his story, Loon made headlines for his balloons raining down on homes and residences, in places like the United States and Sri Lanka, and even the Amazon rainforest.

LOON PROJECT: HISTORY AND ACHIEVEMENTS

Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling to the ends of space, designed to connect people to the Internet in remote parts of the world.

Balloons travel about 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere.

Winds in the stratosphere are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction. Project Loon therefore uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons should go.

It then moves each one in a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form a large communication network.

The inflatable part of the balloon is called a balloon wrap made of polythene plastic sheets that are 49 feet (15 meters) wide and 40 feet (12 meters) high when inflated.

The balloons harness power from chart-table-sized solar panels dangling below them, and they can muster enough charge in four hours to power them for a day.

Each balloon can provide connectivity to an area on the ground approximately 40 km in diameter using LTE technology, also known as 4G.

In 2013, Google launched 30 balloons into the stratosphere from New Zealand.

These balloons floated at altitudes of up to 15.5 miles (25 km) and traveled at a speed of 200 mph (324 km / h).

In May 2014, Google tested the Loon Project balloons in Piauí, Brazil, marking its first LTE experiences near the equator.

The company has worked to reduce the leaks by testing the balloons in giant freezers, simulating conditions at high altitude.

They also created an automatic launch system, allowing four people to launch a balloon in just 15 minutes.

In 2017, Loon said his balloons had helped more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans connect to the internet.

The company worked with AT&T and T-Mobile to successfully provide basic Internet access to remote areas of Puerto Rico where cell phone towers were destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

The “Project Loon” balloons have been used to send text messages, emails and basic web access to the people of the country.

In 2020, Loon deployed its balloon system to transmit high-speed internet access with Telkom Kenya to cover rural and suburban populations.


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