Alphabet will use beams of light to deliver internet in Kenya

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Taara started as a solution for Project Loon. The moonshot sibling, which uses balloons to deliver internet to rural areas, was looking at ways to share data between its wind-riding vessels. The team successfully used FSOC to send a copy of Real Genius between balloons that were more than 100KM apart. That then sparked a conversation about the technology’s use on the ground. FSOC is compelling because it uses light, just like fiber optic cables, but doesn’t require any trenches or poles. In theory, that makes it cheaper, faster and simpler to deploy, especially in areas that are surrounded by rivers, national parks or towns ravaged by conflict.

Taara does have some limitations, though. The terminals work best at distances up to 20KM and need an unobstructed ‘line of sight’ to work. That’s why the team typically sets them up on towers, poles, or rooftops. Bandwidth is also around 20 Gbps, which the team promises is enough for “thousands of people to be watching YouTube at the same time.” A great solution for smaller towns and villages, therefore, but maybe not entire cities, unless it’s being used in conjunction with traditional infrastructure.

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