An investigative report by The Guardian on Friday suggests that Google engineers are hard at work on delivering 5G wireless internet service from solar-powered drones from a secret location in the deserts of New Mexico.
Google’s Project Skybender
The boffins are at it again. Engineers from numerous tech companies have been looking into ways to provide the remote, impoverished as well as rural areas of the world with internet from the sky. This includes Google’s own Project Loon that looks to expand LTE networks by using a host of long-flight balloons. Elon Musk hopes to connect a series of satellites in space for something he calls, fittingly, Space Internet.
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Now, The Guardian is reporting that Google’s engineers are working out of hangars in New Mexico that were used in the past to design and build private spaceflight prototypes. The 5G internet signal that Google is working at with Project Skybender uses transceivers that transmit at a high-frequency millimeter wave that could potentially deliver wireless at roughly 40 times the speed provided by current 4G LTE cell networks.
Millimeter wave technology uses higher frequencies and could effectively call that part of the radio wave spectrum its own lending itself to these blistering speeds.
So what are they waiting for? The trouble with high-frequency transmissions is the fact that they don’t deal with buildings, wall or other obstacles terrifically well given their short wavelength. Additionally, they struggle with both precipitation and humidity.
“The huge advantage of millimeter wave is access to new spectrum because the existing cellphone spectrum is overcrowded. It’s packed and there’s nowhere else to go,” Jacques Rudell, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, said when discussing the technology with The Guardian.
So how is Google going to work around this short wavelength?
According to the report, Google is looking at a phased array for highly focused transmissions which require a tremendous amount of power. That’s why the search engine giant is hoping that solar power is the answer and it’s hoping the drones built by its Titan division will do the trick.
The Guardian claims that Google is leasing the runways at Spaceport America where Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic was working on a prototype of SpaceShipTwo prior to its infamous “crash.” Google is reportedly paying $1,000 a day for use of the facilities where it will continue testing this millimeter wave technology through July according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission.
While nothing may come out of Google’s work, it’s worth applauding the company’s efforts.