Google plans 180 satellite fleet for $1B to provide Internet connectivity to underdeveloped regions

In a move with the potential to revolutionize the way many people access the Internet, sources at Google have revealed plans to launch a fleet of 180 satellites that would provide networking services to areas with low levels of connectivity.

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, the plan would cost at least $1 billion and could be the first step in a greater effort to create a far-reaching satellite network.

One of Google's projected growth areas is underserved populations that do not yet have the necessary infrastructure to support online interactions. Those places include third world countries and rural areas of more developed nations. Google and other companies, including Facebook, have recently announced plans to connect these locations to the Web using all manners of instruments, from weather balloons to drones.

"Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable," Susan Irwin, president of Irwin Communications Inc., a satellite-communications research firm, tells the WSJ. "Wired connectivity only goes so far and wireless cellular networks reach small areas. Satellites can gain much broader access."

With this satellite plan, Google is covering one more avenue with which to spread its influence. The satellite venture will be headed up by Greg Wyler, founder of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks, which was recently acquired by Google, according to the WSJ. The company has also been hiring away engineers from related outfits, including Space Systems/Loral, to fill the 10- to 20-person team.

The key to the plan--which is similar to past schemes that have failed due to logistical and financial reasons--is 180 small, high-capacity satellites that would orbit lower than a normal satellite. If the plan does expand to a larger number of satellites, the projected cost could run as high as $3 billion. Roger Rusch, who runs TelAstra, a satellite-industry consulting firm, tells the WSJ that such a plan would prove to be a boondoggle and cost Google much more than they imagine, upwards of $20 billion.

"This is exactly the kind of pipe dream we have seen before," he says.

For more:
- read the WSJ article

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