Alphabet's Loon is providing internet access to Peru's earthquake victims

The internet balloons provided service to affected areas within 48 hours.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture. Credentials
  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

Loon's internet balloons provide internet access from the sky.


Google parent company Alphabet is using internet balloons to provide data to Peru's earthquake victims.

Alphabet's Loon, started in 2016, uses solar-powered balloons as Wi-Fi carriers to deliver signals from up in the air. The company said Thursday it's using its balloons to provide LTE to areas of Peru affected by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that hit earlier this week.

Loon was able to quickly respond to the situation because it'd already been active in Peru. The company says it's spent the last few months negotiating a commercial contract with telecommunications company Telefónica to provide mobile internet access to areas around the country, especially those that are remote. 

In the last month, Loon began installing infrastructure and testing the balloons. When the earthquake hit, Peru's government and Telefónica asked Loon to send balloons to the affected area. The first balloon arrived Tuesday, and more are being sent.  

"As Loon has evolved, we've come to better understand our ability to respond in disaster scenarios," Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth wrote in a post.

Loon also used its internet balloons in 2017 to bring internet access to people in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. It took about four weeks to provide service then. 

"In this instance, we were able to begin providing service in about 48 hours, because we had already deployed the building blocks of the Loon network," Westgarth wrote. 

Loon says it aims to provide service to billions of people who don't have it, regardless of whether there's a disaster. The company plans to launch commercial service later this year that'd provide mobile internet access to underserved areas.