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Google Plans Satellite Network For Global Internet Access

The Wall Street Journal reports Google is planning to launch 180 satellites around the globe, offering broadband Internet access to everyone.
Posted at 7:43 PM, Jun 02, 2014

It's no secret that Google has been trying to put the "worldwide" in World Wide Web for some time. Now the tech giant's plans to bring Internet access to the billions of people who are still offline is heading to new territory: outer space.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Google is looking to spend $1-3 billion or more to launch 180 satellites into orbit around the globe, providing broadband access to the world. The project is reportedly spearheaded by Greg Wyler, founder of satellite startup O3B Networks. Google has also been hiring engineers from other satellite firms to work on the project.

The concept of plastering the skies with satellites to bring Internet to the world has been tried before — most notably by the Microsoft-backed Teledesic, which ground to a halt in 2002 after 12 years and $9 billion spent on construction. (Via Wayback Machine)

But the cost of building and launching satellites has come down dramatically in recent years, and Google's reportedly working on ways to cut costs even further.

The company supposedly wants to cut the size of O3b's satellites down from 1,500 pounds to 250 pounds, which one analyst told NBC would be a "radical advance."

Of course, this isn't the only stab Google's taking at universal web access. Its Project Loon, which aims to provide Internet access via a network of balloons, began testing last year.

And last month Google acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace with plans to eventually supplant balloon coverage with high-altitude, solar-powered drones. (Via CNET)

The company's investments in Internet for everyone aren't just altruistic. The Verge points out Google stands to make a tidy profit if it can get more people online.

"If at least one of the methods — balloon, drone, or satellite — can successfully offer high-speed internet to underserved parts of the world, then Google will also be in a position to offer its products and services to vast new markets."

Which is why Google's not alone in the Internet space race. Rival tech firm Facebook's Internet.org project has some ambitious plans of its own to contend with, involving satellites, drones, and even lasers.

So far, Google has declined to comment specifically on any potential satellite project.