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Google’s Project Loon: Will History Repeat Itself?

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Project Loon versus Free Basics

Google (GOOG) is currently in talks with several Indian telecom companies to launch Project Loon. The objective of this project is to provide affordable Internet access to remote areas by using balloons instead of a cellular tower.

The project was announced by Google X in 2013, with an aim to deliver “balloon-powered Internet for everyone,” including companies that establish a market in emerging economies (EEM).

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In August 2013, Facebook (FB) launched its project Free Basics in India. However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (or TRAI) said Facebook’s Free Basics is violating the principle of net neutrality, which states “equal treatment of all traffic on the Internet.” Hence, the new regulations restrict free access to the Internet to a set of limited sites or apps.

How different is Project Loon from Free Basics?

Both these projects are aiming to provide Internet access to the untapped market, however, their influences remain different. Google’s (GOOGL) balloons provide “LTE connection shared from a cellular spectrums operated by telecom companies,” which is intended to provide Internet access at a cheaper rate. However, Free Basics allows Internet access to limited websites and apps for free.

In December 2015, Economic Times reported that the Indian government raised some security and technical issues to take Project Loon forward. According to a report from Internet and Mobile Association of India (or EPI), there are approximately 402 million Internet users in India, a number that continues to grow at a rapid pace.

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