Balloons in the Sky: Unveiling the Characteristics and Trade-offs of the Google Loon Service Articles uri icon

publication date

  • June 2023

start page

  • 3165

end page

  • 3178


  • 6


  • 22

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1536-1233

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1558-0660


  • The Google's Loon[TM] initiative aims at covering rural or underdeveloped areas via fleets of high-altitude balloons supporting LTE connectivity. But how effective and stable can be the coverage provided by a network deployed via propulsion-free balloons, floating in the sky, and only loosely controllable through altitude variations? To provide some insights on the relevant performance and trade-offs, in this paper we gather real-world data from publicly available flight tracking services, and we analyze coverage and service stability in three past deployment scenarios. Besides employing a variety of metrics related to spatial and temporal coverage, we also assess service continuity, by also leveraging recently proposed 'meaningful availability” metrics. While our analyses show that balloons are certainly a cost-effective way to provide a better-than-nothing and delay-tolerant service, there is yet no empirical evidence that an increase in the number of overlapping balloons may be rewarded with a substantial performance increase - in other words, we suspect that guaranteeing coverage and service stability levels comparable to that of a terrestrial cellular network is a challenging goal.


  • Computer Science
  • Telecommunications


  • digital divide unmanned aerial vehicles uav haps high altitude platform station loon service