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Google’s latest FCC filing hints at more extensive Project Loon testing in the U.S.


According to a recent filing with the FCC, Google is looking to test something with experimental radios that use a wireless spectrum in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico. The details on these tests are incredibly sparse at this point, but Google wants to start the process on January 1st and test for 24 months (via BI).

Much of the actual FCC filing itself has been redacted in the version released to the public, but there are two possibilities as to what Google could be referring to in its requests. The most likely of the two, however, appears to be its Project Loon Internet balloons.

Project Loon, of course, is Google X’s project that it hopes will allow it to provide Internet to rural and less-developed areas with solar-powered balloons that fly between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. Google recently announced that it would begin testing Loon in Indonesia next year in partnership with the major wireless carriers in the country.

There are several pieces of evidence in the FCC filing that hint at it being related to Project Loon. The first is the name on the filing: Astro Teller, who is essentially the “head” of Google X’s Moonshots. The filing also mentions how these tests are a continuation of tests it previously conducted in the United States. In the past, Google has conducted tests with Loon in a small town in Nevada.

It remains to be seen as to why Google wants to test Loon extensively in the United States when it has said previously that under-developed countries are its primary target with the project. One idea Google could have, however, is that should an area in the United States suffer from some sort of natural disaster, Loon could theoretically be used to help provide a communications platform for citizens and officials.

There’s also a small possibility that Google could potentially be looking to test its Project Fi service more extensively with this FCC request. This, however, seems unlikely as Fi is already readily available to customers and is not a Google X project.

You can read the full redacted FCC doc from Google here.

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Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller


Chance currently writes for both 9to5Google and 9to5Mac, in addition to 9to5Toys.