Muhunthan Canagey

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Information Communication & Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), Muhunthan Canagey last week said that Google equipment to commence ground tests have arrived in Sri Lanka while arrangements are now being made for cargo clearance. Replying to a question posed on Twitter on whether Google’s Project Loon would be rolled out by the originally stated timeline of March 2016, Canagey said, “Will do our best to get the service rolled out. A few months here and there should be expected”.

Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google X with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 18 km (11 miles) to create an aerial wireless network with up to 4G-LTE speeds.

The Sri Lankan government first announced the ‘Google Loon project’ on July 28, 2015 following the visit of Google Vice President and Project Leader on GoogleX Project Loon, Mike Cassidy to the country. On behalf of Google, Cassidy then signed an agreement with Canagey who then represented the Sri Lankan side and promised that the project would cover the island with 3G internet.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Harsha De Silva in an exclusive interview with Nation said that Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure, Harin Fernando had during the second week of this month, traveled to the US to meet with the CEO of Google and discuss details pertaining to the Loon project.

“The project is on track. In fact, Minister Harin Fernando, Ruwan Wijewardena and I sit in the Inter-Ministerial committee for Digital Infrastructure. Today (13) as we speak Harin is on the way to Google to meet with their CEO and also meet with others on the Loon project. Due to commitments in Colombo I couldn’t go.  When he comes back we’ll see,” De Silva said.

On the other hand, the Indian media last week reported that the Government of India was open to allowing pilot projects and technological experiments by companies such as Google and Microsoft although the final approval for projects such as Google’s Project Loon and Microsoft’s Project White Spaces would be subject to these projects being deemed as consistent with India’s broader security requirements.