google satellite

The billion-dollar project will complement Google’s balloons and drones.

Google wants to deploy a fleet of satellites to extend internet access to areas around the world that do not have internet access. The fleet of satellites will cost Google $1 billion. Google “will start with 180 small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites, and then could expand.”


Google has been boosting its expertise in this area by hiring people from satellite companies. “Google’s satellite venture is led by Greg Wyler, founder of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks Ltd., who recently joined Google with O3b’s former chief technology officer,” the Journal reported. “Google has also been hiring engineers from satellite company Space Systems/Loral LLC to work on the project.”

Google is an investor in O3b, which is putting satellites into orbit 5,000 miles above the Earth, and says it will be able to provide gigabit per second data rates. O3b claims to “deliver latencies faster than long haul fiber with a round trip latency of less than 150 milliseconds.”

By comparison, the satellites used by Internet provider HughesNet are 22,000 miles from the ground.

O3b’s satellites weigh about 1,500 pounds each, but Google intends to build ones that weigh less than 250 pounds, according to the Journal report. Google’s initial fleet of 180 satellites “could be launched for as little as about $600 million,” but the project could end up costing up to $3 billion.

Separately, Google recently purchased drone maker Titan Aerospace, which it will reportedly integrate into “Project Loon,” Google’s attempt to provide Internet access to hard-to-reach areas from balloons.

While Google declined comment on its satellite plans, the Journal quoted satellite consultant Tim Farrar, who said he “expects Project Loon’s balloons eventually to be replaced by Titan’s drones. Drones and satellites complement each other, he said, with drones offering better high-capacity service in smaller areas, and satellites offering broader coverage in areas with less demand.”

When contacted by Ars, Google said: “We don’t have anything to add beyond the following statement, attributable to a Google spokesperson: ‘Internet connectivity significantly improves people’s lives. Yet two-thirds of the world have no access at all. It’s why we’re so focused on new technologies—from Project Loon to Titan Aerospace—that have the potential to bring hundreds of millions more people online in the coming years.'”

Photo credit: The Escapist

Via ars technica