According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Google is planning to spend more than $1 billion to expand internet access to unwired regions of the world with a fleet of satellites. According to “people familiar with the matter,” Google this time around is hoping that it can overcome financial and technical problems it has faced in the past with this goal.
While the details of this project are ever-changing, the premise of it is that Google will start with 180 small, high-capacity satellites that orbit the at lower altitudes than traditional satellites. Google then plans to gradually expand the initial number of 180 satellites. This venture will be led by Greg Wyler, who founded the satellite communications start-up O3b Networks. Wyler recently joined Google, along with his former coworker at O3b. Google has also reportedly hired engineers from various other satellite start-ups, as well.
While Google has initially budgeted $1 billion for the project, it is prepared to spend up to $3 billion, depending on the final design and number of satellites. In a statement, a Google spokesperson said that “Internet connectivity significantly improves people’s lives. Yet two-thirds of the world have no access at all,” but declined to comment on this project specifically.
In terms of technical details, Google will be using a lot of talent from the O3b start-up, in which it was an early investor. O3b has been developing satellites for a similar project that weigh around 1,500 pounds. Google, however, hopes to cut it to under 250 pounds for its satellites.
Google’s Project Loon is a similar, and most likely related project, that the company hopes to use to bring internet access to everyone in the world. This isn’t the first time that Google has been reported to be working to bring internet to everyone, with the WSJ issuing a similar report a year ago.