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Facebook and Google plan to provide Internet access all around the world

Jun 24, 2014 by BogdanZ

It's summer time in the Northern Hemisphere :), and we're getting ready for the holidays. So imagine that you have reached your dream destination (isolated island?), and at some point you take your phone out of your pocket and, guess what, you have Internet access.

This seems to be the dream of Larry Page, CEO of Google, and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.

Google - Project LoonSay hello to Google - Project Loon!

Google was the first to put this "wild" idea into practice, in June 2013, when the Project Loon was born as a pilot test of thirty hot air balloons. The balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island and were headed for the stratosphere, in order to provide uninterrupted Internet connectivity for everyone beneath :)

So this is how Google envisions the future: hundreds or maybe thousands of balloons at 20 km above the Earth’s surface, that provide Internet connectivity 24/7.

Crazy or not?

The Loon's balloons (yes, this sounds funny :) ) can last around 100 days in the stratosphere, and can be brought back to Earth in a controlled descent, or in case of an unexpected emergency the additional parachutes will bring them down. As a big plus, these balloons use entirely renewable energy sources: stratospheric winds for movement, and sun for powering the balloon's electronics.

Facebook's flying droneFacebook partners with drones, satellites, and lasers

On March 27 this year, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned on Facebook that their company has "been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky"[1]. Of course, they did enlist some help for their endeavor: some of the world’s top experts on aerospace technology, including the team from Ascenta (the company that created the early versions of Zephyr, the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft), NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA’s Ames Research Center and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

So basically FB wants to provide Internet around the globe by using drones, satellites and lasers.

The race of the "GIANTS" to conquer the sky

Although FB and Google seem to have approached the Internet matter differently, recent events (Google partners with O3b Networks Ltd. - a satellite-communications startup, Google buys Titan AeroSpace, a company that designs solar-power drones) have pointed out a shift in strategy in Google's case: from hot air balloons to solar-power drones, similar to those used by FB. So the plot thickens...

Also, rumors have it that Google plans to buy a fleet of satellites worth $1 billion, which will circle the Earth at a lower altitude and will provide unlimited Internet access.

But where are the other giants of the IT World? Well… in 1990s, Microsoft Corp. "backed" a company called Teledesic LLC with the goal to provide Internet access around the world by using low-orbiting satellites. The company failed to deliver, due to the fact that the budget of $9 billions was exceeded, and more technical limitations were encountered.

Let’s hope that the history will not repeat itself and that this time Google and / or FB will accomplish their mission (considering that technology has evolved a lot in the last 20 years).  

 


[1] Source: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101322049893211?stream_ref=10




Comments


Kyle Davis commented on 7/29/2014 12:27:12 AM

I live in the United States. Still in some rural areas, such as where I live we do not have any choices and sometime no internet at all. I can't get another internet provider in my area. Several say they do, but only one does. They know they are the only game in town. So you get what you get. No competition. How can we be the number one country on earth, and I can't choice my internet provider. Or even get a decent speed. What do I do?
     

Adrian commented on 7/29/2014 12:33:10 PM

Hi Kyle,

Thank you for your comment. As I see it, a major issue for Internet providers is the fact that USA has a huge territory. So I think that it's difficult for ISP’s to cover such great distances.

Secondly, it's very costly to have such a business in USA, for example, look at this announcement: "Financial analysts last year estimated that Google had to spend $84 million to build a fiber network that passed 149,000 homes in Kansas City, with the cost per home at $500 to $674".

Also, I've read that some large ISP providers are trying to suppress new ISP’s through lawsuits, and for this cause many ISP startups have reached a dead end.

In Romania, we are lucky to have Internet subscriptions that are very affordable, and with fast connections.

Fore sure that technology will advance, and you'll also have a better Internet coverage in USA.


     

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