According to the Wall Street Journal Google is planning to launch as many as 180 small, low-orbit satellites to provide Internet access from outer space. Experts believe the cost of such a project will be in the neighborhood of $1 billion to start and could run as high as $3 billion once the project actually gets underway.
"Internet connectivity significantly improves people's lives. Yet two thirds of the world have no access at all," said a Google spokesman via email. "It's why we're so focused on new technologies-from Project Loon to Titan Aerospace-that have the potential to bring hundreds of millions more people online in the coming years."
Shares of the tech giant were falling sharply, losing 2.1% to $548.06 in early Monday trading in New York.
The space team is reportedly being headed by Greg Wyler founder of Europe's O3b Networks a Google-backed satellite start-up. Recently, Google has been on a hiring spree luring experts from rival satellite companies. Although O3b has been working on devices weighing three-quarters of a ton these new Internet access designs are expected to tip the scales at 250 pounds.
Google had also been reportedly working on even lower orbit Web access designs. The company's Project Loon as previously reported, is undergoing testing balloons to create local networks of high-altitude connectivity.
In April, Google purchased New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace a company specializes in flying robot-drones. Titan's devices will also be capable of capturing high-resolution photos of ground-level objects which will be of use to Google's Maps and Earth projects.
Google isn't the only large tech company interested in lower space supremacy. Facebook (FB) recently purchased Ascenta Aerospace, a U.K. company, which has been working on pilot-less, high-altitude aircraft. Facebook had also reportedly been interested in Titan as well. Facebook says it wants to build a fleet of solar-powered, Internet access drones which will be able to stay in the air as long as months at a time.
Amazon (AMZN) recently mentioned it was looking into the possibility of utilizing drones for quicker delivery of goods and services but believes full deployment of such services won't be feasible for another four-to-five years.
As far back as the 1990's, Microsoft (MSFT) along with telecommunications expert Craig McCaw, invested billions in Teledesic in an effort to deliver Internet connections via low-orbit satellites with the help even lower-orbiting drones. Teledesic halted satellite production a dozen years ago.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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