Loon project facing abrupt end: Harin

Published : 8:24 am  February 17, 2017 | No comments so far |  |  (236) reads | 

   By Yohan Perera and Sanath Desmond   
The proposed loon project is facing an abrupt end as Google had started looking for other options, Technology Development Minister Harin Fernando said yesterday.   

Minister Fernando told a media briefing that Google was looking towards launching the loon project in another country as a result of the delay on the part of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and as a result of negative publicity given by those who do not want the project to go through.   

“Unfortunately Sri Lanka might lose an excellent opportunity and I have already informed about this situation to both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,” the Minister said. “Google might go for another country as they might think Sri Lankan people are not ready for such a project because of negative reports that were published on it,” he added.   

He said Sri Lanka had lost an opportunity as 10 per cent penetration of internet would have resulted in 1.21 percent GDP growth.   The Minister said the main reason for the delay in starting the project was the failure on the part of ITU to give its approval for the 700 mh spectrum. He said the matter was  referred to Attorney General to look at what could be done legally.   

Further, he said some sections in the telecommunication sector was also not too happy about the project and never wanted it off the ground.   “We only did a pilot project to see whether the loon technology would be successful in Sri Lanka for which we got a spectrum for it. Accordingly a commercial agreement was never signed with Google, or Rama Corporation which is the local agent of Google and Information Technology Communication Agency. An agreement was signed only for testing,” the Minister said.   

The Minister denied the allegation that the project was started without proper approval and highlighted that no approval was needed for a pilot project. “Do we need to get the ITU approval just to negotiate with Google or with any of its agents?,” he questioned.   

“Loon project was not one like the Volkswagon project as the TRC and I had a dialogue with Google Partners Larry Page and Sergey Brin,” he added.