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WSJ: Google considering $1B satellite network for Internet access

updated 08:13 am EDT, Mon June 2, 2014

Network of 180 satellites will reportedly provide Internet to remote areas

Google is exploring the possibility of launching its own satellites into space, according to a report. The Wall Street Journal claims the search company is planning to invest more than $1 billion on a fleet of small satellites that could be used to spread Internet access into areas of the world that are not covered by more traditional forms of connectivity, such as cellular or wired connections.

The initial project allegedly involves a team of between 10 and 20 people reporting to Larry Page, headed up by Greg Wyler, a founder of satellite start-up O3b Networks. Sources claim the project will start with 180 small satellites orbiting at lower altitudes compared to the majority of other satellites, with the project set to cost somewhere between $1 billion to more than $3 billion. Each satellite could weigh less than 250 pounds, a small payload in comparison to 1,500-pound satellites O3b have experimented with.

O3b Networks satellite
O3b Networks satellite


The satellite project echoes an earlier balloon-based version Google X revealed last year. Project Loon used a network of balloons flying at twice the altitude of commercial planes to form a network, connecting to base stations at homes and businesses. By raising or lowering in altitude, the balloons can navigate an area using stratospheric winds, and in turn maintain a coverage area. The altitude-based path finding would use software algorithms, a system that the satellite project could end up reusing for its own network. Google also purchased drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace, another company that could help with both projects.

The report comes shortly after another rumor, suggesting Google is looking into acquiring Skybox Imaging for upwards of $1 billion. While Skybox deals with satellite imagery, it is possible these satellites could perform double duty, allowing Google to not only provide Internet access, but also take high-resolution images or video of regions, which could offer the company real-time data for locations instead of the periodic slices of time used in Google Maps.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. vinnieA2

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-28-05

    "Project Loon" — Really? How about "Project LOONEY"

  1. aviamquepasa

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-22-11

    I think they are trying to bypass government laws. By building their own internet, they could avoid for example taxes in europe that seem to want to increase as countries there go deeper and deeper into crisis.

  1. pairof9s

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 01-03-08

    Still Google has a good perspective here. It would be beneficial to have true wireless data access via our mobile devices that is not restricted by telecom contracts and coverage areas.

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 11-28-08

    For companies like Google, Microsoft or Apple, it seems like having their own communications satellites would be something standard. Apple has $150 billion in the bank and they should have their own satellite systems and trans-oceanic cables. By now, the Earth should have pole to pole internet coverage for practically everyone. The world takes forever for doing what should be essential things. If the mega-rich private companies have any conscience whatsoever they should get it done. As an Apple shareholder I would definitely approve of such a satellite plan even if I had to take a cut in dividends.

  1. slapppy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-23-08

    Only a real idiot would trust this company, but hey its free right?

  1. Inkling

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 07-25-06

    I'm dubious. People in isolated areas fall into two main categories: 1. Commercial shipping and oil/mineral exploration interests. They certainly have money, but already have existing relations with satellite data companies developed specifically to serve their needs. 2. Ordinary people who live in isolated areas and typically have limited incomes. Whether they want Internet service or not, they can afford to pay little or nothing. Neither is likely to be a large enough market to justify a $1 billion-plus investment. Personally, I'd love to see Google see what could be done with the low-end of the VHF spectrum now that TV stations are leaving it. It gets good penetration into buildings and will wraps somewhat into a valley. High-gain antennas aren't that large and at the high end (70-88 MHz) skip conditions are rare. There is some air-navigation beacons there, but that could be worked around. And the big plus is that frequencies could be reused every 30 miles or so. That's a much smaller footprint than even a LEO a satellite.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Inkling, a lot of people who are well off also live in areas that are not as well connected to the internet.

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