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Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites 170

An anonymous reader writes "Google is planning to spend over $1 billion on a fleet of satellites to extend Internet access to unwired regions around the world. 'The projected price ranges from about $1 billion to more than $3 billion, the people familiar with the project said, depending on the network's final design and a later phase that could double the number of satellites. Based on past satellite ventures, costs could rise. Google's project is the latest effort by a Silicon Valley company to extend Internet coverage from the sky to help its business on the ground. Google and Facebook Inc. are counting on new Internet users in underserved regions to boost revenue, and ultimately, earnings. "Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable," said Susan Irwin, president of Irwin Communications Inc., a satellite-communications research firm. "Wired connectivity only goes so far and wireless cellular networks reach small areas. Satellites can gain much broader access."'"
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Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

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  • 180 satellites... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thagg ( 9904 ) <> on Monday June 02, 2014 @10:30AM (#47146575) Journal

    Kind of like a social network of satellites :)

    Seriously, this makes a lot of sense. At the low altitudes that these will fly, the power necessary to reach the satellites will be much lower than geosynchronous or even Iridium satellites. Mass producing small satellites probably is cheaper than building a few big ones, as well.

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Monday June 02, 2014 @10:33AM (#47146607)

    There are a lot of places here in the US, where even basic DSL or cellular service is fairly hard to come by, and if one goes with a conventional satellite provider, it becomes very expensive very fast.

    This is something that I have high hopes for... done right, and assuming the uplink/downlink antennas are not too expensive, this would allow a baseline of Internet access in a whole region. Latency is "meh", but it is a lot better than what a lot of places have right now.

  • Re:180 satellites... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mmell ( 832646 ) on Monday June 02, 2014 @10:37AM (#47146647)
    They'd better be cheaply launchable as well. LEO satellites don't live in stable orbits. They have a definite, limited lifespan before they deorbit, as Earth's atmosphere doesn't "end here" - it just gets thinner and thinner as you climb (and no - it's not an asymptotic function of altitude. There is definitely a point where Earth's atmosphere ends, but it's above the orbit of LEO satellites).
  • Iridium flares (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wdconinc ( 704592 ) on Monday June 02, 2014 @10:43AM (#47146697)
    Sounds an awful lot like Iridium [] satellites: cell phone connectivity in the middle of nowhere. Their business plan must have overlooked that there is hardly anyone in the middle of nowhere, so they went bankrupt. The primary result is satellite flashes (iridium flares) that are brighter than Venus.
  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Monday June 02, 2014 @10:48AM (#47146741)
    I recall Dean Kamen saying how he agreed to help Coca Cola with their new soda machine that could dispense hundreds of different flavors if they helped him distribute his water purification systems in parts of the world where Coke was one of very few distributors. Win-win []. Sometimes people can use companies not just to make money.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:42PM (#47147477)
    My workplace is in an unincorporated urban area of Los Angeles (91748) where Verizon has a monopoly on phone service and none of the cable companies offer service to commercial areas. Verizon realizes they have a monopoly on commercial Internet service, so has not bothered upgrading their phone lines. The DSL speeds are 1.5 Mbps down, 384 kbps up. They charge $50/mo for this. Some phone lines are capable of 3.0/.768, but talking with other nearby businesses it seems to be about one in 5-10 phone lines which are able to get the higher speeds. (The "higher" speed is $100/mo.)

    I went camping up in the San Bernardino Mountains [] this past weekend. The 3G internet speeds there on my phone were 1.8 Mbps down, 0.8 Mbps up. What Verizon is (not) doing with DSL in areas where they have no competition is absolutely criminal. If Google can pull this off, it'll be a work-around to the "one DSL company and one cable Internet company are sufficient competition" court decisions. And a good kick to the rear of the existing de facto monopolies as they'd be forced to actually offer competitive service and pricing or lose all their customers. The satellites being in LEO means they'll be circling the Earth, so they would cover the U.S. just as well as Central Africa.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:53PM (#47147537) Homepage Journal

    Google just bought Titan Aerospace, which builds and sells solar powered airplanes that can fly for 5 years straight. In theory they would intercept the satellite transmission and then beam the signal down to "the last mile", or in this case last 40,000 ft.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.