Google is reportedly planning to invest over $1 billion (€734 million) to launch hundreds of satellites around the world, which would provide Internet access to individuals in remote areas that cannot be reached otherwise, in what seems to be a program to complement the Loon Project.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Internet giant wants to deploy 180 small, high-capacity satellites around the Earth, orbiting at lower altitudes than traditional satellites.
The new effort is led by Greg Wyler, founder of O3b Networks Ltd, a startup that handles satellite communications, who has recently joined Google. Sources indicate that the Internet company has actually been hiring engineers from Space Systems/ Loral LLC to work on the project.
While the $1 billion price tag has been attached to the effort, that’s actually the lower limit, with the top ceiling reaching as much as $3 billion(€2.20 billion). It all depends on the final design of the network and the possibility of doubling the number of satellites sometime in the future.
As mentioned, this seems to be yet another effort from Google to expand the Internet network to regions that remain unexplored. We first saw this when the company introduced its Project Loon, which uses balloons to deliver Internet access to areas that need this.
Google has been working on this for a while now and has managed to circle the globe a few times by riding the air currents high up in the sky, learning how to predict and direct its balloons. Due to the sometimes unpredictable weather, however, it does seem like a safer bet to deploy satellites instead or to compliment Loon.
The company hasn’t exactly confirmed the news, but it hasn’t denied it either. “Internet connectivity significantly improves people’s lives. Yet two thirds of the world have no access at all,” Google said.
Facebook has also been working on finding ways to bring Internet access to more millions of people around the world. “Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable. Wired connectivity only goes so far and wireless cellular networks reach small areas. Satellites can gain much broader areas,” said Susan Irwin, president of Irwin Communications, a satellite-communications research firm.
This is an ambitious project and its growing costs are unlikely to deter Google, as many fear. The company will have to also face some regulatory troubles since it needs to make sure that its satellites don’t interfere with others, but that’s just paperwork.