The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google plans to spend over $US1 billion on a fleet of satellites that will be used to provide internet to parts of the world that currently lack digital connections.
According to "people familiar with the project", Google will use 180 "small, high-capacity satellites" that will orbit the Earth at low altitudes. Led by Greg Wyler, who set up satellite startup O3b Networks, Google has been on a hiring spree to recruit engineers from satellite company Space Systems/Loral, claims the Journal.
Now, if the report is accurate, Wuler is heading up a team of "between 10 and 20 people," ultimately reporting to Larry Page. The project is scoped to provide internet to areas around the world without wired connections, and cost between $US1 billion to more than $US3 billion, depending on the network's final design and size. The Journal claims that a later phase "could double the number of satellites. "
Aside from organisational details, information about the project remains scant. But it's not Google's only drive to deliver internet from the skies: it's already running tests with internet providing balloons, and it's bought a drone company to cover the world in Wi-Fi too.
While previous attempts to smother the world in internet via satellite have proved unsuccessful, that's largely been due to escalating costs. If the the report is accurate, Google is now working on three high-profile projects to use airborne craft to connect the world. Clearly, cost isn't too much of a concern for Page & Co.
Why? Well, aside from the obvious — being filthy rich — the provision of internet to currently unconnected locations across the globe opens up vast new markets. Google clearly wants it products and services to be the default option; we'll just have to wait and see if it can pull it off. [Wall Street Journal]