Who will be the first to bring the Internet to the world?
Amid frantic reports about what Apple is revealing at their annual WWDC conference earlier this week, several news agencies released stories about Google’s next big thing: Internet for everyone using satellites. And back in March, Facebook announced it had plans to use satellites and drones to deliver the Internet worldwide. It seems the battle between the major internet companies is just beginning to take off.
Google gets loony
Google began its crusade last year by testing Project Loon in New Zealand and the west coast of the United States. You might not have heard about the project, as it’s just one of many efforts Google has in place to invent, test, and produce technology to improve the world. Specifically though, Project Loon aims to bring the Internet to rural parts of the world using balloons that ride the winds in the stratosphere (upper regions of the atmosphere with various layers based on temperature). The New Zealand tests proved they could deliver Internet this way, but it also highlighted many technical issues. And Google lost several balloons during the test. They also had a balloon crash in a small town in the state of Washington on the west coast of the United States within the last week.
So the recent reports about Google’s satellite plans are no surprise to many who questioned the balloon approach. Satellites are already delivering Internet to rural areas in many parts of the world, and the addition of Google’s rumoured (the company has not confirmed it) purchase of $1 billion worth of satellites would certainly improve the coverage to under-served countries and regions.
Facebook calls the experts
Facebook has turned to hiring experts in the aerospace and communications experts to help their new Connectivity Lab project. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, posted on Facebook that the project will “build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver internet to everyone.” But there are very few real details about their project being released. There is also no timeline provided by the company.
And while Google hasn’t officially confirmed the deal to buy the satellites, some analysts report they think it would take them about five years to complete the first stage of 180 satellites.
But these types of projects are fraught with issues. Not only is there the high cost of satellites, but there are regulatory requirements regarding placement, frequencies used, and fair use.
I would be willing to bet money that the entire world will have easy internet access one day, but I wouldn’t want to bet on what company will be the first to do it. Because when it comes to technology, it’s anyone’s game.