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Pros and Cons over President’s Initiative of Bringing Google’s Project Loon to Indonesia

Randi Eka - 26 October 2015

A couple of times ago, President of Indonesia Joko Widodo visited the U.S to negotiate with several global tech giants. One of the agenda was to meet Google’s Head to discuss about internet distribution within remote areas in Indonesia. The main idea was to launch Google’s Project Loon.

However, it appears that PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) is against the plan. Telkom’s Director of Innovation and Strategic Portfolio Indra Utoyo stated that the plan will harm local telecommunication industry, since Google will bypass the local connectivity in the area. Moreover, the program is still in research phase right now, making it even riskier to implement.

Utoyo added that Telkom, along with other players of the industry, are currently working hand in hand to build their network all over Indonesia. However, he stated that Telkom will still support the Project Loon program, as long as it’s well-targeted, which is to reach remote areas which broadband can’t touch so far. The implementation should involve national operators as well.

On the contrary, the plan is music to XL Axiata’s ears. According to XL’s CEO Dian Siswarini, this is a good plan to reach remore areas. Shen even suggested that it’s better to learn about the program’s business model before finally implementing it. He believed that once the economic motive is well-understood, there wouldn’t be any excuse made for not implementing the program.

In Australia, Google partners with local operator Telstra to launch the Project Loon program. Google didn’t purchase nor rent any frequency while doing that, as Telstra allows it to access the BTS network using its frequency to be distributed to users through Wi-Fi connectivity. This strategy is considered replicable in Indonesia.

Before commenting to this issue, it’s better for us to learn about what exactly challenge the connectivity distribution in Indonesia. It’s Indonesia’s unique geographical condition, as the country is practically an archipelago. Google’s modern technology users air as the media, while the broadband network is focusing on underwater network. The President might have different opinion, as he looks to accelerate the realization of equal fast internet distribution all over Indonesia.

As Dian Siswarini said, it’s important to be open to new tech and innovation. We should judge Google’s innovation by its benefits for the people. If it can accelerate the connectivity distribution, then why not?

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