Google has always had lofty goals of providing wireless Internet to the masses, and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal shows they continue to have interest. This time around, it involves balloons. Yes, balloons.The talk is that they are going to either partner with or purchase a company called Space Data Corp.
Space Data Corp. is a company that currently uses balloons to provide “specialized telecom services to truckers and oil companies.” They launch about 10 balloons a day in areas in the Southern United States. These balloons go up about 20 miles into the stratosphere and carry electronics which act like a mini cell phone tower and provide Internet to people below. They say that each balloon can cover “thousands of square miles below.” Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
There are a few problems with the balloons though, and the first is that each balloon is only good for about 24 hours. Once it gets high up into the atmosphere, it ends up bursting. The contents of each balloon cost about $1500 and once the balloon pops the gear comes down to earth via parachute and then people are sent out to find them, using GPS devices (they get paid $100 for each transponder they collect). Simply finding enough people to launch all of the balloons (they currently pay farmers and crews at smaller airports $50 per balloon) could be tedious.
So why does Google have interest in the company? According to The Wall Street Journal, “Google believes balloons like these could radically change the economics of offering cell phone and Internet services in out-of-the-way areas.” Rural areas likely wouldn’t be where Google would stop. According to the balloon company, they say with just 370 balloons, the whole country could have access to a WiMax broadband network. Using traditional towers, 22,000 of them would be needed. There’s quite the difference between 370 balloons versus 22,000 towers and while it sounds a little off-the-wall at this point, there could be some real potential here with balloons
Thanks for the tip Google!