Heracles, which has 10 full-time employees, also sells gun safes for bedrooms and trucks. Andrea James, an analyst at investment bank Dougherty & Co., says this is as good a moment as any for the CouchBunker, as the market for guns and accessories “is sta
(15.8 Mbps). Rama “is bringing universal connectivity to the whole country,” says Muhunthan Canagey, the head of Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication Technology Agency.
The Rama project began a little more than a year ago, when the president met with Palihapitiya. “I said to them that if they created a mandate for Internet access and making it a right, they would be the first country to do it,” recalls the 39-year-old venture capitalist, who emigrated with his family from Sri Lanka to Canada in 1983, at the height of the civil war. “I had very close relationships with the team at Google, and so we were able to get that team interested in providing Loon technology to the country.”
If the Wi-Fi-beaming model works, Rama could also partner with Facebook’s Wi-Fi drone program or with satellite providers, Palihapitiya says. “If we can solve this in Sri Lanka, then we can solve it in the Philippines, Vietnam.”
Following the first Loon launch, local news outlets flashed photos of what looked like the wreckage of a balloon near the capital, Colombo. A spokeswoman for Google parent company Alphabet said that was a planned landing following a successful test. Google has disclosed few details about Loon, except to say it’s working with carriers around the world. (It’s also testing the balloons in Indonesia and working to bring them to India.)
No matter how many balloons are in the air, Sri Lanka will still likely need fiber-optic connections to handle growing Internet demand, says Rohan Samarajiva, chair of technology infrastructure think tank Lirne Asia and a former director of Sri Lanka’s telecom regulator. Loon is “a rather unusual solution and has got potential,” he says, but it’s “an unproven technology we should look at with reasonable and realistic expectations.”
Canagey, the government official, is less equivocal. “This is the way the world is going,” he says. “We have to evolve in the way the technology is evolving.”
Rama’s partnership with Google could give Sri Lanka another way to boost its ever more precious Internet bandwidth.
The bottom line
Edited by Jeff Muskus Bloomberg.com