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Look, up in the sky! Is that a Google Wi-Fi balloon?

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Google's latest unconventional project, balloon-borne Wi-Fi service, is being tested in the skies above California's Central Valley.

The Web giant said on Google+ that it has been conducting research flights over parts of its home state to fine tune what it called Project Loon.

That project is an effort by Google to bring Internet access to parts of the world where the necessary infrastructure, such as cell towers, is lacking. Project Loon comes from the Google X lab, which is also responsible for self-driving cars and Google Glass eyewear.

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Most recently, Google said Thursday, Project Loon flew over Fresno to test how well the Wi-Fi balloons relayed signals in busy city areas. The project, which was introduced in June, encountered problems during the research flight.

"It turns out that providing Internet access to a busy city is hard because there are already many other radio signals around, and the balloons’ antennas pick up a lot of that extra noise," the company said. 

In order for a signal to be transmitted in that kind of situation, Project Loon had to transmit multiple times, which decreased its bandwidth.

"This is like trying to talk to a friend at a loud concert," Google explained. "The music interferes with your voice, so your friend might have to ask you to repeat what you said a few times in order to make sure she heard it correctly."

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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