Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the only tech titan aiming to make the Net truly global. Google’s ambition to help bring Internet access to everyone in the world may soon be taking form. The search giant reportedly plans to invest over $1 billion in 180 satellites that “could amount to a sea change in the way people will get access to the Internet,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The satellite investment is part of Google’s latest moonshot project to deliver broadband service to under-developed areas—an effort that also includes Project Loon, which aims to beam Web access via high-altitude balloons, and the recent acquisition of Titan Aerospace, which could enable drones to transmit broadband signals.
Greg Wyler, founder of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks, leads the Google team that’s trying to succeed in a venture that’s had a bumpy history until now. In the 1990s, Teledesic LLC stopped its own Internet satellite project, which was hampered by technical issues and exceeded $9 billion in costs. Since Google’s network expansion designs have not been finalized, costs for its project could continue to rise. But economics will not be the only hurdle for the Silicon Valley behemoth. The company will face regulatory pressure as it is forced to work with other operators to avoid interference with their satellite fleets. If Google is to succeed in helping to provide Internet access to the rest of the world, it is expected that satellites, which are more “flexible and provide greater capacity,” will be the best solution.