Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is planning to invest more than $1 billion on hundreds of satellites to provide internet access to the underserved parts of the world, according to the Wall Street Journal.
People familiar with the matter indicated that the search engine giant will start with 180 small, high-capacity satellites that will orbit the earth at lower altitudes than regular satellites. According to the sources, the number of satellites that will be deployed will likely increase over time.
Projected cost could increase
The sources also said that the estimated cost of the internet satellite project will be around $1 billion to more than $3 billion depending on the final design and later phase, which could double the number of satellites. There is a strong possibility that the cost of the project will increase based on previous satellite ventures.
According to the WSJ report, Greg Wyler, the founder of 03b Networks Ltd, a satellite communications start-up, is leading Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) satellite project. Wyler, together with the former chief technology officer of 03b, recently joined the search engine giant.
One of the people familiar with the situation said Wyler has around 10 to 20 staff working with him on the satellite project and he is under the supervision of Craig Barrat, who reports directly to Google CEO Larry Page.
According to one of the sources Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has been hiring satellite engineers from Space Systems/Loral LLC.
Google’s spokesperson emphasized that the search engine giant is focused on providing internet access to additional hundreds of millions of people around the world. “Internet connectivity significantly improves people’s lives. Yet two-thirds of the world have no access at all,” according to the spokesperson.
Recent satellite firm acquisition
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) previously acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides access to data services worldwide. The search engine giant previously stated that “atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation.”
The search engine giant is also working on Project Loon, a balloon-powered internet access project to connect people in the far-flung regions of world. Jennifer Haroon, Access Principal at Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), previously stated that the company has been investing in and developing many big ideas over the years to bring internet access to more people worldwide. “No single solution can connect the 5 billion people living without internet access today,” said Haroon.
Google CEO Larry Page contemplated covering the globe with internet access through Project Loon during a conference last March. He said, “I think we can build a world-wide mesh of these balloons that can cover the whole planet.” At the time, he noted that it is cheaper and faster to launch balloon-powered internet access than satellites.