Project Taara: Internet Traveling at the Speed of Light

In November 2020, it was reported that Alphabet, Google’s parent company rolled out a plan for a new project that will enhance internet connectivity across the world, especially in underserved places like Africa. 

Project Taara connects remote cities to the internet using laser beams. Simple as ABC right? 

Not quite. Alphabet had to put in some solid work. Here are some things you might want to know about Project Taara: 

  • Alphabet first constructed flying cell towers for the transmission of the Internet from the sky (via a radio frequency channel; 
  •  the company proceeded to construct a working plant that provides communications at a speed of 20 Gbit/s at a distance of about 5 km across the Congo River; 
  • The Taara laser beam travels the distance between Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is located on opposite banks of the Congo River; and 
  • Alphabet’s commercial 20 Gbit/s link has been running for over 14 days now, and the company claims that about 700 TB of data was processed during this time at 99% of uptime.
A demonstration of Taara’s pointing and tracking system finding optical alignment. Photo credit: X Development LLC

Why laser? Well, the transmission of internet through lasers is useful for areas that are difficult to connect using fibre cables. These include sites located around forests, water bodies, railway tracks, or land with high real estate costs.

In a blog post by Baris Erkmen – Director of Engineering for Taara, he explained how Taara’s wireless optical communications links are now beaming light-speed connectivity from Brazzaville to Kinshasa across the Congo River.

“After installing Taara’s links to beam connectivity over the river, Taara’s link served nearly 700 TB of data – the equivalent of watching a FIFA World Cup match in HD 270,000 times – in 20 days with 99.9% availability. While we don’t expect to see perfect reliability in all kinds of weather and conditions in the future, we’re confident Taara’s links will continue to deliver similar performance and will play a key role in bringing faster, more affordable connectivity to the 17 million people living in these cities.”

Commenting on the challenges associated with Taara’s wireless optical communications links, Baris Erkmen stated that:

“While we don’t expect to see perfect reliability in all kinds of weather and conditions in the future, we’re confident Taara’s links will continue to deliver similar performance and will play a key role in bringing faster, more affordable connectivity to the 17 million people living in these cities.”

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