Google to launch 180 satellite for global internet service

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GoogleGoogle is planning to launch a fleet of 180 satellites to provide web access for the 4.8 billion people not yet online. Google is expected to spend more than $1 billion on the technology.


Details remain vague, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the satellites will be small and high-capacity, and will orbit the Earth at ‘lower altitudes than traditional satellites.’

Google’s venture is being led by Greg Wyler, founder of satellite-communications start-up O3b Networks, and depending on the network’s final design, the group may double the number of proposed satellites, reports the UK Daily Mail.

A separate project by Google, dubbed Project Loon, is designing high-altitude balloons to provide broadband service to remote parts of the world.

In April, Google acquired Titan Aerospace, the drone startup that makes high-flying robots which was previously targeted by Facebook as a potential acquisition. As well as its satellites, Google also hopes to use the Titan drone to provide connectivity to remote regions.

Project Loon was developed in the company’s X Lab by the same team behind Google Glasses and the driverless car. It is hoped that it could save developing countries the high cost of laying fiber cables to get online and lead to a dramatic increase in internet access for the likes of Africa and south-east Asia.

Facebook, meanwhile, has its own drone plans. In March, Mark Zuckerberg revealed solar-powered drones, satellites and lasers are all being developed in the firm’s labs to deliver the internet to underdeveloped countries.

He has pledged to work on technology to deliver the internet to ‘the next 3 billion people’ – and revealed the firm has hired experts in solar power that can keep drones flying for months at a time.

See the UK Daily Mail story here

RBR-TVBR observation: It certainly falls in line with Google’s first-mover advantage philosophy. While many say Google is just getting too big, it really has become a funding engine for new, complimentary technologies. If Google believes in a start-up, it will usually just buy it and build it. For many new technologies, it takes a company with the size and expertise of Google to bring them to fruition.