Internet connection accessible to everyone and everywhere in the world is a new objective of a billionaire club. Google, Facebook and, who else than Elon Musk, are running a hurdles middle distance race to win the prize of global internet connectivity. Billions are going to connect their brainpower to an existing open-source mind-network that will lead the humanity to a new era.
Google wants it all
Google is pretty serious about providing worldwide internet access. To make that happen, they are simultaneously working on three different projects which could achieve this goal either on their own, or by complementing each other.
Apparently, this company allocated $1 billion US dollars for satellites that can support internet access globally. By some estimates, the total amount of the investment could rise to over $3 billion. For starters, Google should launch 180 “small satellites of high-capacity” that would orbit around the World at a slightly lower altitude, compared to existing satellites.
Google is also experimenting with helium filled balloons, known as the Loon project. The ultimate goal of the Loon project is to create a network of balloons in the Earth’s stratosphere, capable of covering even the far-flung corners of the planet with broadband signal. As part of the testing phase, 75 balloons are already orbiting the Earth. Balloons are made of polyethylene plastic, have about 50 feet in diameter, and the whole installation is 40 feet high. Units are powered by solar panels. Loons can do more than cover remote areas of the world. They can provide better connection stability even in urban areas where tall buildings interfere with the signal. They can also be a valuable asset in areas affected by a disaster, and in cases other communication equipment suffered damage for various possible reasons.
The latest project involves the use of drones. After purchasing Titan Aerospace, drone/satellite maker, earlier this year, they have quickly got themselves busy adapting newly acquired technology for their purposes. As reported by Forbes, Google was ready for a testing phase in September this year, but is waiting for official permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Facebook, Connectivity Lab and Internet.org
Mark Zuckerberg, Chair and CEO the Facebook, Inc., set himself a new challenge by launching a project that aims to provide internet access to the remaining two-thirds of humanity.
On his Facebook page he announced the initiative to form a partnership with Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm, MediaTek and Ericsson to strengthen Facebook’s capacities. The group is known as Internet.org, and with Facebook’s Connectivity Lab’s leadership, they want to develop solar-powered drones, supported by low-orbit satellites, capable of staying airborne for years. They would operate at altitudes between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, away from any existing airspace and weather systems. To generate momentum, Facebook is also collaborating with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the Ames Research Center.
As part of the initiative, Facebook and its partners will be developing more efficient applications which consume less amount of data traffic.
Elon Musk’s idea was from the start based on low-cost satellites. The fleet of 700 micro-satellites would suffice to make internet connection accessible around the globe. He formed the partnership with former Google Inc. executive Greg Wyler, founder of WorldVu Satellites Ltd. WorldVu already proposed satellite constellation that would operate in the Ku band spectrum of radio frequencies providing unrestricted broadband access worldwide.
SpaceX’s micro-satellites should weigh a little over 200 pounds and cost under $1 million per piece; while today’s smallest satellite weighs twice as much and costs several times more. A fleet of 700 satellites would be 10 times bigger than the current largest satellite fleet belonging to Iridium Communications.
All these projects are due to become operational as off 2017 or by 2019 at the latest. Implications of the world coverage with internet access are unfathomable. Just think about what it meant for the civilization when one third of humanity got access to the internet. Everything started to develop exponentially. Now with 4.4 billion additional people online and anticipated transition to the new Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), we can extend our potential to unimaginable proportions.