Sending an electrical signal via a wire is technology as old as the telegram. But now new technology aims to change that. Meet the Taara project by Alphabet X (Alphabet is Google’s parent company):
The Taara Project is wireless optical communications (WOC) that use beams of light to send information from one point to the other.
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Beams Of Light
Project Taara has already been deployed in the field. Connecting the towns of Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
These towns were both separated by the Congo River. Separated by 4.8 km, these two towns didn’t have any affordable means to connect to each other. This is because the Congo River is one of the world’s deepest and second fastest rivers:
This meant in order to connect the city, the only other option was to lay down a fiber cable that went 400 km around the river.
This is where Alphabet X and project Taara stepped in. Using technology, they were developing for Project Loom (Alphabet’s plan to beam internet via hot air balloons), they set up wireless optical communications between the two cities.
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Alphabet has shut down Project Loon since it was no longer seen as a commercially viable project. But it is good to see that the company is still using the technology and insights they built in other projects.
The Free Space Optical Communications technology works by beaming a very narrow and invisible light to deliver high-speed internet from node to node. Similar to how traditional fiber cables use light in underground cables. But in the case of Project Taara, this light is not enclosed in a casing, nor is it buried underground.
According to the Alphabet X team, Taara’s link facilitated 700 TB of data transfer in 20 days with a 99.9% link availability. Even though the team does say that bad weather conditions can have an impact on the connection, they are hopeful that WOC might be the future in connecting remote areas to high-speed internet.
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Flying Birds Can Interrupt The Light
Any physical obstruction or interference can mess up the connection, including fog, haze, and rain. Even things like flying birds can interrupt the light beams and break connection momentarily. This will obviously be a challenge for the Alphabet X team since these externalities are out of their control.
However, despite some interruptions, having a 99.9% reliable connection is amazing. And since laying down a fiber cable would be too expensive, Project Taara is the next best thing. And with speeds of up to 20 Gbps, could this technology become the future?
Alphabet X worked with Econet Group and liquid Telecom to bring high-speed internet into the area. They plan to expand the Taara link network and bring faster internet connectivity to the 17 million people living in both cities.