Google’s plans for satellite-based internet access just got a little more concrete. The Wall Street Journal hears that the search firm is preparing to build 180 “small, high capacity” satellites that will go into low orbit and provide internet connections to underserved areas. While details aren’t forthcoming about the machines, there may be more on the way; reportedly, the company could “double” its vehicle count if all goes well. A spokeswoman didn’t confirm or deny the efforts, but did note that having an internet link “significantly improves people’s lives.”
Google Inc plans to spend more than $1 billion on a fleet of satellites to extend Internet access to unwired regions of the globe, people familiar with the project said, hoping to overcome financial and technical problems that thwarted previous efforts. Details remain in flux, the people said, but the project will start with 180 small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites, and then could expand. Google’s satellite venture is led by Greg Wyler, founder of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks Ltd., who recently joined Google with O3b’s former chief technology officer, the people said. Google has also been hiring engineers from satellite company Space Systems/Loral LLC to work on the project, according to another person familiar with the hiring initiative.