Google R&D boosts Congo connectivity with wireless light delivery
An innovative way of delivering high-speed internet via beams of light through the air has successfully transmitted data across the Congo River.
This means that people in Brazzaville and Kinshasa will be able to receive faster and cheaper broadband.
The experiment was produced by Project Taara, one of Alphabet X’s (formerly Google X) ‘moonshot ideas’.
The idea branched off of Google’s Project Loon, which uses balloons in the stratosphere to provide broadband connectivity in rural locations.
The experiment will fulfil a “particularly stubborn connectivity gap” between the two African cities – Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo – said the team in a blog.
Although the cities sit only three miles apart, connecting them is problematic because traditional cable must be routed around the river – which also makes the broadband prices five times more expensive.
The team at X reported that the wireless optical communications (WOC) system supplied almost 700 terabytes of data in 20 days with 99.9% availability.
It said in a blog: “While we don’t expect to see perfect reliability in all kinds of weather and conditions in future, we’re confident Taara’s links continue to deliver similar performance and will play a key role in bringing fast, more affordable connectivity to the 17 million people living in these cities.”
The project has been in development for three years. The system is similar to the way traditional fibre in the ground uses light to carry data, but instead of the cable casing the system uses narrow, invisible beams of light through the air.
The team have also discovered ways to reduce errors due to interruptions such as birds flying through the link.
“While places like foggy San Francisco may never be an ideal spot to use WOC, there are many, many places around the world with ideal weather conditions for Taara’s links,” the blog read.
The technology will also be trialled in Kenya, India, the US and Mexico.
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