Sri Lanka takes stake in Google balloon Internet venture

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government announced Monday it would take a 25 percent stake in a joint venture with Google designed to deliver a high-speed Internet service powered by balloons and that tests would begin this month.

Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando said Google has taken delivery in Sri Lanka of the giant helium-filled balloons and other equipment needed to carry out tests across the island.

“The tests will start later this month at Ratmalana (a suburb of the capital Colombo) and could last up to a year,” Fernando told reporters.

“The government of Sri Lanka will have a 25 percent stake in the (joint-venture) company in return for the spectrum that will be allocated for the project,” the minister added in Colombo.

Fernando said there would be no other capital investment by Sri Lanka, but 10 percent of the joint venture would be offered to existing telephone service providers in the island.

The minister said most of the Internet service providers on the island were in favor of what is known as Google’s “Project Loon” that will extend their coverage and offer cheaper rates for data services.

“Our objective is to extend coverage so that the entire island will be covered,” Fernando said. “With competition, tariffs will also come down.”