Google is taking a shot at satellite Internet with a sizeable investment. In an effort to provide a connection to unserved areas, Google is looking to invest anywhere from $1 billion to $3 billion dollars on a new satellite project. The project is being led by Greg Wyler, a founder of satellite startup O3b Networks, Ltd. – a company Google invested in early on. It’s thought that with Google’s resources that some of the problems surrounding current satellite Internet efforts might be solved.
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It will be interesting to see how this new satellite initiative will fit in with the existing Project Loon, the high-altitude balloon venture that the company is already pursuing in an effort to provide Internet to remote regions. Along with that there are also moves by Google to use drones for the same purpose, following the purchase of Titan Aerospace. But it’s likely that the search giant is simply trying multiple avenues in an effort to achieve the same goal. A problem very much worth addressing.
While much of the developed world has decent, reliable access to the Internet. Developing countries and rural communities are still lacking. I stress rural communities as they tend to get lost in these type of articles as there are many parts of U.S. where dial-up or the existing satellite Internet offerings are the only options. To elaborate even further the current satellite Internet offerings come with low bandwidth caps, high latency, and a very expensive price tag compared to the offerings you find in the city, where a wired infrastructure is in place.
Google may be on target to contribute in a meaningful way to this market, and its presence may force its potential competitors to innovate both technologically and in their overall offerings. We’re in for good things if O3b’s website is any indication, where it says their “next-generation network combines the reach of satellite with the speed of fiber, providing customers with affordable, low latency, high bandwidth connectivity.” If Wyler brings this to the general public with Google’s backing the world will be a better place, or at least a better connected one.
O3b in the meantime is currently providing broadband with their own fleet of satellites, however, it doesn’t look like their service is available for the average consumer. The company is planning to launch their newest satellites into orbit July 10 of this year. It is unclear what the relationship will be between O3b and Google moving forward and as of right now there is not an official statement addressing this question. But it will be interesting to see if the recent hiring of talent from O3b by Google will end there, or if it will eventually acquire the company (pure speculation there).
The timing might be just right for this project as the ground-antenna technology becomes cheaper. Antenna company Kymeta Corp., that provides the antennas for O3b, is now able to sell its systems for hundreds of dollars versus the $1 million such a system could go for 10 years ago. That price along with the antenna’s ability to track multiple satellites are changes in this industry’s landscape that Google is looking to take advantage of to make this endeavor a success.
At the end of the day it is worth bearing in mind that any move Google makes at getting folks online ultimately results in more money in their pocket, as every person online is another potential ad target. Even if they don’t make a ton of money on selling Internet service, Google still stands to make a lot of money by helping connect the world in general – and based on their recent activities that seems to be the goal. We’ll just have to wait and see what they come up with but one thing is certain, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.