The Wall Street Journal reports Google has plans to spend more than $1 billion on Wi-Fi-beaming satellites, though details are still being worked out. The search giant reportedly wants to send 180 small, high-capacity satellites up into orbit—lower than traditional satellites—that would bring Internet to places that currently don’t have access (or would be too expensive to build infrastructure). The cost could rise to as high as $3 billion depending on how many satellites Google eventually launches.
The project is allegedly being led by Greg Wyler, who founded satellite-communications startup O3b Networks Ltd., and recently joined up with Google. The Mountain View company has apparently been on a hiring spree as it gears up for its big satellite push; sources told the WSJ there are about 20 people working on the project, which is being overseen by Google’s Larry Page.
This is actually just one of three ways Google plans to deploy Internet across the globe, with Project Loon and Google’s acquisition of Titan Aerospace among the company’s alternatives. Launching satellites, however, sounds like the easiest solution in the short-term, though Google’s other projects could factor in down the road. Whatever Google can do to reach those who have previously been unreachable, it seems.
Google didn’t directly confirm it will launch satellites, but did offer a rehearsed response, saying the Internet improves people’s lives, which is why it’s interested in the first place. Right now, the company is reportedly going through regulatory hurdles to make sure its satellites don’t interfere with others. Once those issues are all clear, satellite weighing up to 1,500 pounds will be deployed—Google is hoping to eventually get that size down to just 250 pounds, allowing the company to launch more and keep costs down.
And those costs could be astronomical if Google isn’t careful. According to Roger Rusch, who runs TelAstra Inc., costs associated with satellite deployment on such a grand scale could balloon up to $20 billion. So long as Google has its clutches around the Internet-less population, I don’t foresee any amount holding the search giant back.