Jakarta. Observers have extended a cautious welcome to the announcement by Google and Indonesia's three biggest cellular carriers to bring Internet access to all through the tech giant's high-flying, solar-powered balloons.
"With an average of 25 million smart devices shipped into [Indonesia] each year, the idea of providing faster and vast connectivity to a wider population is something that represents the logical next step," Sudev Bangah, the Indonesia country manager for the International Data Corporation, said in a statement on Thursday, following an announcement by Alphabet, Google's holding company, that it would work with Telkomsel, XL Axiata and Indosat to expand Web access across Indonesia through its Project Loon initiative.
IDC estimates shipments of 30 million smartphones and five million tablets, the vast majority powered by Google's Android operating system, to Indonesia by the end of this year.
The cooperation between the telcos comes despite mixed responses earlier this week to President Joko Widodo's plan to improve wireless Internet access in Papua and other remote areas through Project Loon.
This will make Indonesia the fourth country, after Brazil, New Zealand and Australia, to let Project Loon fly its balloons in its airspace and beam wireless Internet connectivity to users on the ground.
However, Bangah said the project may not be well received by everyone, since the priorities of those living in underdeveloped regions were different.
"How will this balloon in the sky help bring my modest village-centric business to a broader Indonesia audience, and how will this enhance our existing quality of life? These will be the questions to address," he said.
The project aims to provide wireless Internet coverage to areas that traditional telcos deem impractical for setting up cellular or fiber-optic transmission infrastructure.
State-controlled Telkom, the parent company of Telkomsel, is now building a fiber-optic system connecting Maluku and Papua.