Recently, Google's ambitious and public-spirited ventures are sounding less like the careful expansions of an international megacorp and more like the pet projects of Dr. Benton Quest. Self-driving cars, medical contact lenses, industrial robots - seriously, we're just waiting on a Walking Eye and Steve Ballmer in a villain costume at this point. The latest report from the Wall Street Journal (which tends to be spot-on when it comes to Google's plans) says the company is preparing a fleet of low-orbit satellites that will deliver Internet access.

Yes, really. According to the WSJ, recent Google hire Greg Wyler, founder of O3b Networks, is laying the groundwork for a plan to expand Internet service to super-remote locations that are currently underserved. The reported project would launch 180 low orbit satellites with high bandwidth capabilities, costing between one and three billion dollars. Naturally everything is very tentative at this point, and the fine details of the project are subject to change. The report says that 10-20 people are currently working on the plans, reporting to VP Craig Barrett, who in turn reports to CEO Larry Page.


And 03b Networks satellite lifting off. O3b's founder Greg Wyler is reportedly heading Google's satellite internet team.

O3b (for "the other 3 billion," as in people in remote locations or developing countries without Internet) is a satellite Internet service provider that currently operates a network very similar to the one the WSJ is speculating on. It provides satellite Internet coverage from approximately the US/Canadian border to nearly the southern tip of South America, all the way around the globe longitudinally. The company's satellites orbit at about 5,000 miles above the surface of the Earth, much closer than most satellites, which helps to reduce data transmission times and ping. According to the report, Google is hoping to create a larger network using smaller, lighter satellites that are more spread out.

Google hasn't made any secret of its plans to expand faster, cheaper Internet access to everyone they can. In addition to the Google Fiber service now available in a select US cities, Project Loon is a plan to provide Internet access in a slightly more terrestrial way, using balloon-mounted antennas to bounce signals between themselves, service points on the ground, and end users. Industry analysts predict that Google's recent acquisition of Titan Aerospace, makers of solar-powered drone planes, was for a similar purpose.

All of this is focused on getting more people connected, specifically people who don't have access to terrestrial Internet. It certainly sounds philanthropic, but remember that Google is an Internet company: the more people use the web, the more money they make. And money is one thing that could sink some or all of these ideas. With nothing set in stone and the Journal's consultants predicting costs of anywhere between $600 million and $20 billion, not to mention years of planning and development before any kind of execution, consider all of this up in the air for the time being.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Js__

    This might be a little fanboyish but this is why I fucking love Google. They're doing things to help change the world.

    • Churchill

      Yeah, 'things to help change the world'...

    • AbbyZFresh

      Change the world through more clever and massive means to provide more ads right?

      • emperor43

        because they should do it from the kindness of their heart; and android is just plastered with massive amounts of annoying ads ;)

    • Theratchetnclank

      Profit is a the best motivator. If it improves your life why do you care someone is making money from it?

      Private companies need profit to bring further innovation.

      Sorry replied to wrong post should be one down.

  • Jason Chuah

    "consider all of this up in the air for the time being" - i see what you did there. ;)

  • http://www.theveboy.com/ Mehdi

    The main picture :D Portal FTW.

    • http://www.williamint.com William Aleman

      They might use portal technology to teleport the satellite into space without the use of a rocket

      • Franco Rossel

        They will need a lot of moon rocks.

  • http://ignaciozippy.com/ Ignacio Zippy

    And they still can't make Android battery efficient… or stop destroying it

    • joser116

      They should pour tons into developing longer lasting batteries. A phone with week long battery life would be disruptive.

      • AbbyZFresh

        But then that wouldn't give people enough incentive to buy new phones with the advertised "longer lasting battery" with each model.

        • emperor43

          they are working on a solution : project ara

          • Jose Romero

            I don't think that's the solution. Project Ara would, without the development of a new battery technology, just enable you to choose different capacity batteries. It is not THE solution. The solution would be the development of a completely new battery technology. That battery technology could then be implemented into a battery module for Project Ara. That doesn't necessarily mean that Project Ara is the solution.

          • emperor43

            i meant Ara as a solution to not having people buy a new phone just for a better battery

          • Jose Romero

            Oh ok, more understandable.

        • Jose Romero

          Are you saying that if phones have longer lasting batteries, then people won't want or need to buy another phone?

          • Bob Hart

            removable with one full day would be enough for me.

            and stop all this 16GB crap that's flooding in now.

            32GB should be standard.

            ram is cheap when greed is absent

          • Jose Romero

            I wouldn't settle for just one day. I have heard of new battery technology developments that would last for much more than that.

      • emperor43

        not every problem can be solved by trowing money at it; better batteries would benefit most technologies so there are hundreds of research teams/academics and companies trying to develop them

        • Jose Romero

          I know that. And yes, true. We desperately need a new battery technology and I hope it comes soon. There have been recent developments (like a week old) that have me excited.

          • Roger Siegenthaler

            Links please? It seems I missed something :S

          • Jose Romero

            It was an article I read in Play Newsstand. I doubt I will be able to find it.

      • MJ

        They already have the solution for longer battery life... Stop yapping and texting so damn much on your phone, use a better tool like a PC when at home, and don't watch videos on a 4" screen barbarian. I never run out of a charge in a day on my phone.

        • Jose Romero

          You won't get a weeks use like that.

          • MJ

            Why need a week? I lay my phone down on my wireless charger at night. It's not even work...

            I am thinking battery tech that will last a week for a high powered device like a phone is a while off that would be affordable.

          • joser116

            "Why need a week?"
            -Why not? Why not 2 weeks or even a year? Heck, why not never charge?

            "I am thinking battery tech that will last a week for a high powered device like a phone is a while off that would be affordable."

            It could be a while off and it could also NOT.
            It could not be affordable, but it also COULD be affordable.

    • Akshay Mehta

      Google makes most of the money through ads. So more people getting internet access means more people using Google and hence more ad revenue. I'm not surprised to see this.

      • joser116

        I'm not sure how that relates to his comment.

    • http://www.itemsherpa.com/ ItemSherpa

      a lot of chinese phones come with pretty potent 3000+mah batteries... but they're all kinda no-name. if large brand manufacturers get on 3xxx instead of 2xxxx mah things would be better already http://www.itemsherpa.com founder

  • Akshay Gupta

    Incoming skynet transmission. That's the only thing left now.

  • joser116

    Meanwhile, Apple releases iOS 8.

    • Sandra Louis


      ✒✒✒ �✒✒✒ ✒✒✒ ✒✒✒� ✒✒✒

    • RamitSuri

      iOS 1.8*

      • Daniel Gimpelman

        Haha good saying

    • Lalit Mali

      *The revolutionary iOS 8. Its 7% faster, 8% smoother

    • jhon

      It is not funny!
      Siri is getting shazam integration and the maps app getting public transportation!!!

      This is ground breaking in the making!

      • Jose Romero

        Lol, we get updates like these all the time

      • Andrew Allen

        Android has had those for years

  • supremekizzle


  • NinoBr0wn

    I saw a movie like this once. It didn't end well for us.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS
    • stealthmode

      Are you people retarded? The first cell phone battery weighed 5lbs. And lasted 45 mins.

      Quit yer bitching.

      • stealthmode

        Fatality that wasn't to you. Somehow it posted as re to yours but actually is re to battery kill poster.

    • Aravind Arsenal

  • AbbyZFresh

    Now do you see why they're the most valauble brand in the world. It's not necessarily because of the money the make now. Apple still makes more than 3x Google does.

    It's the scale what Google puts to use of the money and the potential to diversify profits in the future that gives them so much value. Why can't they do this instead of Fiber. It's clear Fiber will never get to the entire country enough.

    • emperor43

      there's not enough bandwidth, not all services are usable at latency over 100 milliseconds and a more diversified/robust solution Fiber/loon/satellites would be more efficient. Fiber has exceeded what i thought it would be : a one city experiment, but nationwide availability would mean investing a few hundred billion dollars in what would be a low margin industry

      • Roger Siegenthaler

        Well just linking metropolitan areas with fiber wouldn't actually cost them that much but the problem is rural areas where you pay a lot more per-customer, and tbh, google doesn't profit that much more from people with 1Gbit vs. 10Mbit so why bother.

  • Robert

    Skynet is happening

  • Pal

    Where else would they send satellites?

    • PhilNelwyn

      Up your ass...
      (Sorry, couldn't prevent myself)

  • Henrique Persechini

    I'm in space...


  • Bob Hart

    Google,whats behind curtain #2

  • someone755

    What happened to the idea of balloons?

  • Android Developer

    How would the smartphones (or any other device) be able to connect so far?
    I mean, WIFI works in short range (a few tens of meters), and cell towers' range is just a few kilometers, but doesn't connection from/to space also require better and/or larger antennas on the devices?
    Now that I think about it, I wonder how the balloons idea would work.

    • NickAVV

      You would put a satellite dish on your house, then route that through a router to create a WiFi network, I assume

      • Android Developer

        But it costs a lot of money, plus it probably has a huge delay in transmission (don't remember the exact term for this).

        • marinespl

          The delay is still shorter than forever in case of no Internet connection at all.

          • Android Developer

            true. Do you think they will give it for free?

          • marinespl

            I won't be surprised if they will. I guess it's more like giving an opportunity for people with limited Internet access.

          • Android Developer

            What has happened to the balloons idea?

    • JG

      They could install a central tower in the remote village that could link with the GoogSats in orbit above and relay signal terrestrially via 4G or WiFi... To the phones, tablets and such connected it's a standard network connection.

      Or there are satphone adapters you can get for the Galaxy S and iPhone lines (see: http://satphones.eu/en/satellite-phones/1720-thuraya-satsleeve-samsung-galaxy-s4-s3.html). It would enable you to connect a regular phone to the GoogSat directly. Of course that example is $650 ontop of a $650 phone...

      There's also some possibility of a Free-space optical communication system, kind of like how they're sending wifi to the moon. It really wouldn't be a mobile solution, but everyone's house could be equipped with a laser transmitter that could shoot data packets up to the GoogSat... Of course there would be issues with communicating on rainy/snowy/foggy days, etc...Scientists have managed to set up a 1Gbps wireless network using lasers back in 2012. But it was short distance (25 meters)... But maybe with some advances....

      • Android Developer

        Just checked on wikipedia, and it seems that Wifi can even reach more than 100 km in range. Is it true?
        I wonder why can't we all use it instead of the normal cell towers.
        Isn't it better in all possible ways?

  • Will S.

    I love man, Google <3

  • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

    Wow! Three whole Instagrams!