Alphabet said Thursday it was closer to deployment of Project Loon's internet balloons to serve remote regions of the world, although the company will run the program with fewer balloons tham originally expected.
Rather than building a worldwide network, the team will now launch a small number of balloons into particular regions that need internet access.
"Out timelines are starting to move up on how we can do more for the world sooner," said Astro Teller, who heads the team at the Alphabet unit X, in charge of "moonshot" projects of the technology giant.
"We are looking to move quickly, but to move thoughtfully," Teller told a small group of reporters inside a former Silicon Valley shopping center transformed into a "moonshot factory."
The acceleration was credited to software leaps to allow internet-serving balloons to ride high-altitude winds to navigate to the ideal location.
"We've been working to make the balloons smarter; almost like a game of chess with the winds," Teller said.
He expected Loon to be partnering in coming months with telecom companies to provide internet to "real users," in a step up from tests done to see how well the high-floating technology works with networks on the ground.,
"We intend to be part of an ecosystem -- in any country where we are doing testing we would work with a local telco."
Project Loon uses roaming balloons to beam internet coverage and planned to connect Sri Lanka's 21 million people to the web, even those in remote connectivity black spots.