After the design of Loon’s Internet antenna casing was featured in Ask Away a few weeks ago, +Mano Biletsky summed up many of your follow-up questions quite well when he posted “We want to know what is IN the antenna!” This week, Cyrus, Loon’s Network Engineering Lead, takes us IN the antenna, and describes some of the unique design considerations of balloon-based antenna systems.

Thank you for the thoughtful antenna discussion +Chris Hinton  +Edouard Lafargue  and +Douglas Heckaman. Please continue to #AskAway !
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42 comments
 
I don't think they are going to tell us that, as it would talk about another company
 
what will be the speed its customers will be getting...also....i am not a expert in these things...but still..the distance from the loon to the ground antenna without cables...wil result in a lower ping...so that fast speed would be useles..correct me if i am wrong??
 
Normally It should be close enough for fiber-like performance if it is only one or two balloon hops, and will get somewhat slower if many ballons are used, but I estimate it is very unlikeley it would get as bad as geostationary satellite-like latencies unless you are in the middle of nowhere so as to go through very many balloon hops and/or a geostationary satellite link is used for backhaul.

The puzzle fits perfectly with O3b, the MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) satellite constellation which delivers fiber-like latencies and speed. A combination of O3b and fiber can provide the backhaul to serve a cluster of ballons that form a mesh.

It seems ballons carry an Inmarsat BGAN (satellite modem which talks to a geostationary Internet satellite) for command and control, presumably this could also be used as an emergency backhaul in case a balloon loses contact with the mesh, but this is very expensive so it would only make sense in case some kind of disaster takes place.

So in general you shouldn't notice much latency, it might end up being comparable to your normal 3G or 4G wireless Internet access.
 
"Radiating Element" is a normal radio engineering term for the bit of the antenna that is normally connected to the feedline, that generates the signal, in this case the patch. Any other part of the antenna around it is either there to reflect or direct the signal. In the case of this sort of antenna, pretty much everything other than the radiating element is a reflector, but in the case of a more directive antenna like a yagi, the elements in front of the radiating element are called directors.
 
I live in American Samoa in the South Pacific Will Loon be available in our area of the world? If so how can I sign up to be part of a test or pilot program in my area?
 
we want google to implement this Internet thru baloon project soon so we can have the superb speed xcept the conventional way...
 
Great initiative, google has always done things out of the box
 
+Joshua Burgess they are using ubiquiti radios, you can read it on the radio, right above the signal strength indicator, it says UBIQUITI NETWORKS
 
I'd like to ask one technical question regarding Loon antenna... Does the cover function as a "microwave lens" of some sort? If so what kind of material is it??
 
+Steven Rachko
The antenna cover (also known as a radome in antenna parlance) is there to protect the antenna from the weather, leaves, and other environmental factors that might harm it. It's made of a ABS/Polycarbonate blend, which doesn't interfere with the antenna transmission.
 
I noticed on NZ testing photos, that you are using something that closely resembles multipath antennas(3) -> they were located on top of "the gondola" are those 802.11ac antennas for balloon-balloon communication? Another question that puzzles me is solar cell support structure - is it or is it not related to balloon com system? Thank you for your last response.
 
Are these being built/launched using the Google Barges?
 
Wait, so. . . . is it gonna be like Wifi EVERYWHERE? ? ? : >
 
Hi Loon Project Team,

I am one of the millions of Google fans. I recently watched out all the Project Loon videos that are loaded to google.com/loon. When i was going through one of these videos a question flashed to my mind asking "Why can't we have these wifi devices installed on any Mobile Network Towers instead of having them in the baloon at 20km high ? ". If we can have them installed in Mobile Network Towers, we could get the wifi internet access through these devices installed to the Mobile Network Towers. I felt this would be lot cheaper in installing and maintaining than having the loons at 20 kms away. May i know what could be the limitation if we install these wifi devices on to the network 
towers.
1) Does the Mobile network frequencies will have any effect on these wifi signals ? 
2) Due to no network coverage in few parts of the world ?
or any other limitations. 

Would be grateful if i could receive reply for this post from any.

Thanks,
Wishing a Happy and Prosperous new Year 2014 to all Googlers.
 
hi..as explained what is inside the antenna , I will be pleased if you can explain  what is inside the equipment box of balloon like what kind of cpu is inside?, what kind of processor used?, what are the power ratings of the  batteries ? what kind of program is inside the cpu ?
 
I can not find how many balloons will be needed, but if earth´s surface is 500 millions square kilometers and a balloon covers aprox 1000 square kilometers, then you will need 500 000 balloons. Even if covering less than Earth 10%, you would need aprox 100 000 balloons. If they fly 100 days, you will be landing and sending 1000 balloons a day. It is to much to make and handle.
 
+Suman Raja The reason is because the mobile networks pay $100 000's for each tower (they are spending shareholder money, which will be paid back by consumers who don't have much of a choice - so why should they care to look for a cheaper solution!?) - and they charge exorbitant rent. But that's not the real reason. The real reason is they see it as competition and will do what they can to squash it. No, actually that's not the real reason. The real reason is they don't care, because they don't see how it can help them. Their employees aren't paid to see any bigger picture and their bosses didn't become bosses by being nice. You can make it happen if you spent your time and money turning this into some kind of product that you can sell to them that will save them time/money or make them more money... the problem is that it is very difficult and few people know how. And those who know how don't have the time.
 
+Coenraad Loubser Thanks Loubser. That clears the questions i had. It is kind of making an free ware to paid licensed when it gets more popular :).
 
I am particularly interested in whether Project Loon balloons can use satellite links for their backhaul and what data rates they can support. I am currently at McMurdo Station, Antarctica and am aware that the South Pole Station has very limited communications links with the outside world. I have spoken with a few people in the Long Duration Balloon Project here about the idea of putting a satellite repeater on a weather balloon to provide improved communication for the South Pole station but it seems your project may have already developed the tools needed.
 
Hi +Scott Douglas, you can probably use a BGAN terminal on a Balloon, and even though near-polar deployment for BGAN is a challenge, the higher you get up in the air the more likely you can get the terminal to talk to Inmarsat's geostationary satellites. Or you could set up a chain of balloons meshed to each other until you are far away enough from the pole to get a better satellite connection, but it is probably more cost-effective to just use a large VSAT dish, which is what McMurdo currently does.

If Loon ever get's deployed over the Antartic, winter will pose the problem of not being able to use the sun to power the electronics, so again satellite becomes the way to go.

The Iridium satellite service currently works very well over the poles but is very low bandwidth. If Iridium Next really takes off (pun intended) that might give you the possibility of 1.5Mbps links using highly portable equipment and perhaps more using aggregation, this might become available in a couple of years.
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