According to the Wall Street Journal, Google plans to spend at least $1bn on 180 satellites to link unconnected areas of the world to the Internet. In April, Google purchased Titan Aerospace, a drone manufacturer capable of creating high-altitude solar-powered drones to provide Internet signals down to the Earth. This is a relatively new undertaking; in 2013 Google also started its Project Loon, which uses giant balloons as high-altitude Internet service providers (ISP).
Facebook has also been working to achieve the same goal. It has been working with scientists in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center, and recently purchased Ascenta, a UK-based company that manufactures solar-powered drones (Forbes).
The first company to reach the Internet-less areas of the world will essentially be filling a vacuum that would allow their brand to be dominant in a large new market. Both companies seem to prefer satellite Internet to achieve this goal, but what are the implications? How does our Internet actually work?
- Uses a dish on ground level to communicate with the satellites in the sky
- Tends to be slightly slower than wired Internet
- Uses physical cables such as telephone lines, cable lines, or fiber optic lines that run through an area and then are connected to buildings via wires and outlets
WIFI is an adaptation of wired Internet, not another form of Internet connection (as it is often thought to be). Each local area network (LAN) is created using a router which emits wave signals. Devices usually have built-in wireless chips to receive and send signals with the router, which allows all devices on one home network to work with each other for data sharing (this is also how printing works wirelessly). The routers are connected to the Internet via cable/wired Internet – this is what provides all the devices in the network with Internet connection (cnet.com).
Cable Internet Vs. Satellite Internet:
- Cable Internet is more reliable: satellite signals can be weakened by inclement weather or physical structures
- Cable Internet is considerably faster than Satellite Internet: 20-100Mbps vs 1-15Mbps (businessbee.com)
- Satellite Internet is more accessible in rural areas: only a satellite dish is required
It seems that even though Cable Internet would be more reliable and faster than Satellite Internet, Google and Facebook are opting to use Satellite instead, creating drones that will sit lower in the sky for a better Internet signal. It may be expensive to develop these special drones, and there will still be the cost of installing the ground-level satellite dishes, but for these companies, the potential reward of creating a substantial new market is worth it.
It’s worth wondering though, with the way our Internet speed has been increasing year by year, could the slower speed of a satellite connection be more relevant than we think?
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