Google is planning to spend upwards of $1 billion to deploy its own armada of satellites to spread Internet access to the unwired parts of the world, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
While the specifics still need to be worked out, Google is planning to launch 180 small, high-capacity satellites into orbit at a lower altitude than traditional satellites, with plans to possibly increase that number in the future.
This is the latest effort by a tech company to provide Internet access to users who live in areas without the necessary infrastructure. The expanded Internet footprint would also help increase business for Google and other technology companies hoping new Internet users in far-flung regions will help increase their revenue.
This is not Google’s first step into expanding Internet access. Google is designing high-altitude balloons through its Project Loon that will provide broadband Internet services to remote areas. The company has also acquired Titan Aerospace, a company that is working on solar-powered drones that will serve a similar purpose. Facebook has also launched its own Internet-via-drone effort.
Greg Wyler, the founder of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks, who recently joined Google, is leading the satellite venture. Google has also added several engineers from satellite company Space Systems/Loral to help with the project.
“Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable,” Susan Irwin, president of Irwin Communications Inc., a satellite-communications research firm, told The Wall Street Journal. “Wired connectivity only goes so far and wireless cellular networks reach small areas. Satellites can gain much broader access.”
The plan has a ways to go; the company still needs regulatory approval to launch the satellites, and it must also coordinate with other satellite providers to keep their satellites from interfering with one another.
If Google succeeds, it would “amount to a sea change in the way people will get access to the Internet, from the third world to even some suburban areas of the U.S.,” Jeremy Rose, from London-based satellite consultant firm Comsys, told The Wall Street Journal.