The right to blanket the globe in connectivity is quickly becoming a rush for the sky.
Earlier this year we learned that Facebook and Google plan on launching balloons, solar-powered drones, and more to supply Internet access to regions of the world without it, in what’s becoming something of a new global arms race. And now, if new reports are accurate, our reigning Most Innovative Company plans to spend at least $1 billion on “a fleet of satellites” to spread Internet to “unwired regions of the globe.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the new sci-fi venture will launch “180 small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites.” According to people familiar with the project, it will be led by Greg Wyler, who joined Google recently from the startup he founded–O3b Networks Ltd., a satellite-communications firm.
The rest of the project details are scant, although the venture is said to be an extension of Google’s Project Loon, which recently saw one of its “smart” high-altitude balloons smash into a critical power line near a small Washington town, knocking out power for the local community.
In May, Google was reported to be in talks to acquire Skybox Imaging, a high-definition satellite imaging company, for $1 billion, ostensibly to improve the quality of its maps. The Information was the first to report Google’s starry-eyed satellite ambitions last week.