Google Uses Lasers for Broadband Internet

John Lister's picture

Google says it has successfully used beams of light in the air to carry an Internet signal. It says the technology won't work everywhere but could be a useful solution in specific places.

Project Taara works on a broadly similar principle to fiber optic cables, with pulses of light carrying a signal that translates into the 0s and 1s of computer code. The "Free Speech Optical Communications" system uses a narrow beam of light invisible to the human.

It's a similar technology to that which Google used in a previous project to connect balloons in the sky. The new system instead connects tracking beacons placed either on towers or atop buildings.

According to Google, the idea has been in place for many years but hasn't been practical. It says it was able to overcome the challenges by improving the accuracy of the signal placement to maintain the connection. It's also found ways for the system to better cope with cases of atmospheric conditions or animals interfering with the signal. (Source:

Congo River a Major Obstacle

The real world test came with a connection between two Brazzaville and Kinshasa, two cities just three miles apart but divided by the Congo river. As Brazzaville has a good Internet connection, it's the logical connection point for Kinshasa.

However, as the river is more than 200 meters deep, it's not viable to build a direct cable between the two cities. Instead, Kinshasa is connected to the rest of the world by a 250-mile fiber cable that routes around the river. That means Internet services cost around five times as much in Kinshasa as in Brazzaville.

99.9 Percent Uptime

Google says that across a 20 day test it delivered 700 TB of data through the laser system. It didn't reveal the average speed but says the technology reached a top speed of 20 Gbps. (Source:

The most important figure is that the connection was available 99.9 percent of the time. Google now says it's looking at locations around the world where broadband service is currently unavailable or impractical and where the laser system should provide at least 99 percent availability.

This is dependent on weather as places which have excessive fog or persistent rain would be less likely to get an uninterrupted signal using the light beams.

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a worthwhile project? Would it be useful in your country? Does it benefit society to keep increasing the number of locations with high-speed connections?

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