Earlier this year, Google’s parent company, Alphabet stopped working on a project named Loon that it had been working on for years. However, an offshoot from Loon called Project Taara used lasers to transmit 700TB of data through open-air. In a blog post, Google said that Taara’s wireless optical communications links are now beaming light-speed connectivity from Brazzaville to Kinshasa across the Congo River.
Project Taara’s core mission is to offer reliable and affordable internet across the board. The project team has now learned that helium balloons are not a cost-effective way, the lasers they planned to use for Loon can still play an important role. In a system called Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC), the lasers can be used to communicate between two points that have a clear line of sight, The Verge reported.
Alphabet’s Project Taara Used Lasers to Transmit over 700TB of Data
There is a connectivity gap between Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both are separated by the Congo River, the world’s deepest and second fastest river. Brazzaville and Kinshasa are only 4.8 kilometres apart. However, the connectivity is five times more expensive in Kinshasa because the fibre connection has to travel more than 400 km to route around the river.
An Engineer from the team said,
While we don’t expect to see perfect reliability in all kinds of weather and conditions in the future, we’re confident Taara’s links will continue to deliver similar performance and will play a key role in bringing faster, more affordable connectivity to the 17 million people living in these cities.
After installing Taara’s links to beam connectivity over the river, Taara’s link served nearly 700 TB of data. This is equivalent to watching a FIFA World Cup match in HD 270,000 times — in 20 days with 99.9% availability. Since the internet is already available in the region, the team was able to compare its performance and even switched data transmission between conventional fibre-optic cable and its own system, without affecting user experience.
The blog post further explains how this technology works. Taara’s wireless optical communication links use very narrowly, invisible beams of light to deliver fibre-like speeds. To create a link, Taara’s terminals search for each other, detect the other’s beam of light, and lock in like a handshake to create a high-bandwidth connection.
Google also explains how by using atmospheric sensing, mirror controls, and motion detection capabilities, help the team to transmit the invisible laser beam that is about the width of a chopstick using receivers that just is no bigger than two inches (5 cm). Although weather conditions and disruptions from wild animals can affect reliability, the team is confident of being able to deliver reliable and high-speed internet to most parts of the world.
It is worth mentioning here that the team has previously carried out pilots of the system in Kenya and India.