Google Inc (GOOGL) to spend over $1 billion on satellite fleet to bring Internet to remote regions

Posted Jun 2, 2014
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is going to be spending over $1 billion on a satellite fleet to bring Internet access to remote regions of the world, according to sources with The Wall Street Journal. This project will start with 180 small, but high-capacity satellites that orbit around the earth at lower altitudes than most other satellites. It would expand from there if everything goes according to plan.

This project is being put together by satellite-communications startup O3b Networks Ltd. founder Greg Wyler. Wyler joined Google with O3b’s former chief technology officer recently. Google also hired engineers from satellite company Space Systems/Loral LLC to work on this project. Wyler has around 10-20 people working on this project and he is reporting to Craig Barratt. The price range of the project is around $1 billion to over $3 billion. The price depends on the final design and a phase that could see the number of satellites double.

Google is working on a couple of other separate projects to bring Internet to people that are unconnected. Google’s Project Loon uses high-altitude balloons to provide broadband service to remote places in the world. Google also acquired Titan Aerospace back in April to use solar-powered drones to spread Internet to unconnected areas.

There will be a number of challenges for Google to get this project up and running. There are many satellite companies that attempted to pull off similar feats in the past, but many of them gave up because the costs kept on surging. There are also regulatory hurdles like the coordination with other satellite operators so that its fleet does not interfere with others.

Google was an early investor in O3b. O3b has been working on offering broadband Internet connectivity from satellites that weigh around 1,500 pounds each. O3b planned to launch around a dozen satellites. Google wants to launch smaller weight satellites that weigh under 250 pounds.