Google has reached out to the Indonesian government with its plan to provide Internet connection to remote parts of the country using Project Loon. (Photo courtesy of Google)

Google's Project Loon Receives Lukewarm Reception From Telco Firms


OCTOBER 21, 2015

Jakarta. Local mobile operators are showing mixed responses to President Joko Widodo's plan to improve wireless Internet access in Papua and other remote areas by using Google's balloon-powered network Project Loon.

"If there is an alternative way of providing Internet access to underserved regions, that's great," said Dian Siswarini, president director of XL Axiata, Indonesia second largest mobile operator by subscribers.

"Still, we have yet to be informed about the program in detail, so we cannot take any position," Dian added.

Under Project Loon, Google seeks to launch a giant balloon into stratosphere and relay wireless Internet connection to remote areas that are deemed uneconomical for telecommunication firms to link using cellular or fiber optic cables.

The internet giant has run a trial program in New Zealand and cooperated with telecommunication giant Telstra for its project in Australia.

Indonesian Information Technology Minister Rudiantara confirmed Google has discussed its plan to perform a technical test run in Indonesia with the ministry.

Rudiantara added that Project Loon may still need more time to be fully operational.

Joko is scheduled to visit the United States next week and has cleared time in his schedule to speak with Google officials regarding the plan.

Other technology giants like Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have also lined up for a meeting with Joko.

Government had to decline Google request to operate in a 700 megahertz or 900 megahertz frequency band for the project, Rudiantara said, as all frequency licenses have been allocated to local operators.

"So, Google should work with local operators," he added.

Only one telco operator has openly shown its disapproval of the Project Loon.

Telekomunikasi Indonesia, the country's largest telecommunication company, rejected Google's plan, fearing it would undermine the firm's investment in its own fiber optic network worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Clearly, the project would harm not only Telkom, but also other telecommunication companies. That means Google would bypass us," Indra Utoyo, Telkom director of innovation and strategic portfolio, said on Tuesday.

Telkom is now building a Rp 3.6 trilllion ($262 million) fiber optic system connecting Maluku and Papua.