back to article Google to plonk tentacles on 'unwired' world with $1bn launch of 180-satellite fleet

Google has embarked on an ambitious $1bn plan to launch 180 satellites to provide internet access to remote parts of the world, according to the Wall Street Journal. It seems the race is on to be the provider of choice for the enormous (and un-invoiced) emerging market, though who will advertise to it is yet to be revealed. …

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  1. Elmer Phud
    Black Helicopters

    World Domination

    They are mind-controlling satellites with death-ray capabilities!

    1. Tim Brown 1
      Mushroom

      Re: World Domination

      Exactly.

      Every aspiring James Bond villain knows you haven't arrived until you have a rogue satellite fleet at your disposal - well, that and an underground lair and a private army.

      1. fishman

        Re: World Domination

        <<<Every aspiring James Bond villain knows you haven't arrived until you have a rogue satellite fleet at your disposal - well, that and an underground lair and a private army.>>>

        And scantily dressed beautiful young women.

        How could you forget the most important detail?

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: World Domination

      They will have to be mind controlling satellites in order to encourage the poor to spend, what little they have, on the advertised products that Google will present to them.

      And if they don't spend, well the death-ray will come in handy.

  2. Natalie Gritpants Silver badge

    The poor is where the money is

    Not much per person but there are so many of them

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: The poor is where the money is

      > Not much per person but there are so many of them

      It's not just poor people, but poor people in remote areas. Even in third world countries, a large proportion of the population are city dwellers.

      So if their countries' infrastructure is so bad that there aren't even any phone lines (or internet cables) that can reach these cut-off individuals - will the roads be in any better shape? How are the goods they buy from all the tantalising advertisements going to be delivered?

      Please let the advertising be for stuff that will actually help improve lives: not just for games add-ons and pr0n.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: The poor is where the money is

        And will they have any electricity to power the devices required to connect to?

        The poorest country in the world is The Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2012, there were 19.5m mobile phones for a population of 77.4m, which means that about 25% of the population has a mobile phone. Probably several members of the same family share a mobile phone, so the percentage of the population that has access to a phone will be higher than that, and the percentage of the population that has access to a phone signal will be higher still.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The poor is where the money is

          > which means that about 25% of the population has a mobile phone. Probably several members of the same family share a mobile phone,

          Exactly. More people have mobile phones than they have electricity in their homes. Which is why it is so common in Africa (particularly West Africa) to see the bloke on the roadside selling petrol (typically one or two one-litre bottles of it) *and* offering phone charging services out of a little diesel-powered generator. He will also sell you credit recharges for your phone and if you're lucky, SIMs.

          If not, he will be sitting (on a fruit crate) next to the more upmarket shop consisting of someone, typically a lady, inside a wooden booth, who will sell you the SIMs as well as do money transfers for you.

          There are actually lots of micro-entrepreneurs in Africa (not much red tape to wade through, so people are happy to give it a go. [ARE YOU LISTENING, FRANCE!?!?]) As someone above said, they may not move much money, but there are so many of them.

          Google and Farcebook know exactly what they're doing. Although I suspect the Chinese (and the Arabs) have got a good head start on this as they landed on these markets decades ago (centuries for the Arabs).

      2. Asylum Sam

        Re: The poor is where the money is

        Delivery, not a problem. Perhaps the nearest GoogBalloon can double as a massive regional distribution centre, if made large enough. Small drones to carry out the orders, larger drones to disperse stock between the balloons from continental centres.

        Wouldn't take much of a drone to carry a few freshly hatched chicks or some seed to the remote areas, all those <insert minimum unit of local currency as required> add up. Just because an area is poor, doesn't mean it can't be swayed to spending it on what you {they} want.

  3. Steve Todd

    What I want to know

    Is how Google expect to launch that number of satellites for only $1bn. Iridium are working on a replacement cluster for their current network. 66 satellites are costing them $2.9bn, plus nearly $500 million for SpaceX to launch them. Google want to launch nearly 3 times that number.

    1. ItsNotMe

      Re: What I want to know

      Easy...LEGOS.

      http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Satellite-Launch-Pad-3366

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: What I want to know

      Google ordered their satellites using Amazon Prime with FREE Second Day Delivery and put the ISS as their address.

      In seriousness, the Iridium satellites are vastly more advanced than what Google plans to use. This entire exercise is ridiculously far looking and there's simply zero justification for long service life satellites. There's no reason to deal with things like advanced atmospheric compensation or anything outside a very, very narrow range of variables and performance. Who is going to complain?

      The Internet as we know it is absolutely meaningless (except for porn, everybody understands that) without the incredibly large infrastructure we built before www ever came to your house. We tend to forget about it, but that's just because that infrastructure is so mind numbingly enormous that we consider it 'part of the world' just like trees, or oceans or the sky. We see the BIG Names like Amazon or BT or Exxon or Tesco or Wal-Mart and we forget they too are built on the same infrastructure that holds up hundreds of thousands of other businesses. The Internet is worth little without all that and worth even less if the users are largely illiterate and don't have computers or electricity besides.

      My point, is that you can launch the equivalent of science fair satellites and the only people who will complain are going to be (comparatively wealthy) Westerners who find they can't connect to blog about how shitty it is.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What I want to know

      "Is how Google expect to launch that number of satellites for only $1bn."

      Google are probably pricing based on likely SpaceX launch costs rather than other, more traditional launch systems. IIRC, SpaceX are predicting launch costs 75% less than everyone else with mainly reusable systems.

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: What I want to know

        And making the satellites costs nothing? Developing, testing and manufacturing 180 satellites will likely cost well north of $1bn by its self.

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Unlike the Balloons and Drones this sort of works.

    But is it Geo (high latency!!!!) or LEO?

    Also one small roadside fibre cabinet has more capacity than the high capacity 82 Spot Ka-Sat, the highest capacity at the time.

    Devil in detail.

    1. Shrimpling

      LEO

      The article states: "Like Iridium, the Google network will use Low Earth Orbit satellites – as distinct from the Inmarsat network which uses geostationary satellites."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: LEO

        LEO versus GSO is irrelevant for the amount of data bandwidth, being closer to Earth helps only the latency. The data bandwidth is determined by the radio bandwidth and the type of modulation/error correction used. The difference between LEO and GSO unfortunately doesn't help improve the modulation/error correction you can use, because the limiting factor is the last 10-20 miles passing through the atmosphere, not the 220 or 22,000 miles passing through vacuum.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: one small roadside fibre cabinet ....

      ... would have a lifetime of about a month in rural Africa. Hence the emphasis on over the air delivery.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: one small roadside fibre cabinet ....

        > ... would have a lifetime of about a month in rural Africa.

        In my experience, it's more like a day. The next morning, you'll find a grinning bloke who's set up his little stall next to the road and is selling you back your own optical fibre. Repeat day after day until someone decides to give the bloke a job that'll keep him away from your fibre.

        God, I miss Africa! :'(

  5. Semtex451
    Coat

    Misleading Headline

    I will not be alone in excitedly looking forward to a mention of the FSM in your otherwise excellent article.

    Instead I'll just sit in quiet contemplation of the absence of disappointment

    Meantime shurley a noodly appendage icon would make suitable restitution?

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Re: Misleading Headline

      "Meantime shurley a noodly appendage icon would make suitable restitution?"

      Don't call me "Shurley".

  6. Speltier

    Flies Over the Great Wall

    Now what will the Chincom PLA do to stop the giant Google leak in the sky?

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

      well, there's so much stuff floating about up there there's bound to be a mishap now and then, isn't there?

      maybe when the 'cleaner' devices are launched they can be hacked in to as well.

    2. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

      A series of unfortunate accidents will befall any location sporting a suitable antenna dish.

      These are not, AFAICT, SatPhones like Iridium. More like the pirate TV dishes favored in some US-allied countries in the middle east. Even if the powers that be don't immediately destroy your dish, they will make a note who and where you are.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

        @Mike16

        The East Germans had teams of technicians who would "assist" any household whose antenna was mistakenly directed westwards.

      2. DropBear
        FAIL

        Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

        A series of unfortunate accidents will befall any location sporting a suitable antenna dish.

        Just how, pray tell, are you planning to keep a consumer dish oriented at a bunch of low-orbit satellites whizzing over the sky in a matter of minutes?

        These are not, AFAICT, SatPhones like Iridium. More like the pirate TV dishes favored in some US-allied countries in the middle east.

        You might have heard TV satellites identified by their position as "XY.Z degrees east". Perhaps that's possible at all because they are, you know, geostationary, which the Google sats have been explicitly declared in the article not to be...?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

      Jamming, that's what Chincom will do. The signal is essentially radar frequency and not real high power so jamming has already been figured out.

      Correct me if I am wrong but the upstream side of a satellite "internet" connection has to travel on terrestrial networks. Easy to block those too.

      1. Jon 37 Silver badge

        Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

        The upstream side of a satellite "internet" connection can go by satellite, too. It depends on the system.

        If your goal is to provide connectivity to places without it, then the upstream obviously needs to go by satellite. If your goal is to make an existing connection (e.g. a dial-up modem) faster, then upstream can go by your existing connection, since most people download a lot more than they upload.

      2. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

        "Correct me if I am wrong but the upstream side of a satellite "internet" connection has to travel on terrestrial networks."

        Iridium uses a "switchboard in the sky" back-haul concept. They can run with one (1) ground station, and I think that they are close to that in fact.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

        > Correct me if I am wrong but the upstream side of a satellite "internet" connection has to travel on terrestrial networks

        Yup, you are wrong. Vastly so.

        How do you think we get high-speed internet access at sea, or in the air, or at the International Space Station?

        Or in remote areas on land?

        Does VSAT mean anything to you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

          The whole thing is about breaking the great firewall of China. You only get satelitte uplink if you are broadcasting the signal upwards at reasonable strength but those radar seeking missles will make short work of your whole area if you try that in China.

    4. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

      They'll just shoot them down, they've already demonstrated that they can[1]. They could also hack into the control units of the things and de-orbit them, or jam/DoS the up-link and/or down-link. There are many other things they can do.

      [1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6289519.stm

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Flies Over the Great Wall

        Except if they did shoot them down, all hell would break lose. China are not that stupid.

  7. ratfox

    Damn. Must feel good to have all that money to spend on whatever you want.

  8. Fred Goldstein

    Moto made money on Iridium

    Fun fact (and a correction): Moto did not spend $5B on Iridium. They built the constellation using Other People's Money, so they got paid and the dumb "investors" lost. Several other LEOsat projects were proposed and failed in the same time frame. GlobalStar is however still in operation; it was a much simpler and less ambitious design, which made more sense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Moto made money on Iridium

      "GlobalStar is however still in operation..."

      You've unintentionally left the impression that Iridium is defunct. It is, of course, as you know, alive and well. Iridium is also, by any reasonable definition, a bit bigger and arguably better than GlobalStar. Certainly better coverage.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spectrum requirements

    Has Google been acquiring worldwide satellite spectrum? Or acquiring a company that already holds it?

    I suppose if they're targeting unserved/underserved areas like Africa, there should be plenty of unused spectrum, and they don't really care about getting spectrum in places like the US and EU where there is a lot less to be had.

    Whether the African spectrum has been snapped up by companies just sitting on it, or requires a series of bribes is another matter, however. Presumably they've already taken care of this need, because if they haven't the price of available spectrum in such areas has gone up overnight, since the holders would now know Google may be interested in it.

  10. Richard Jukes

    I can see why they have done it, £1bn or even a few bn is cheap for infrastructure investment on a global network. Google are also in the business of networks. Its pretty much pocket change for them and perhaps its even just an exec who wants net access *ANYWHERE* in the world. Eitherway a fuck load of satellites and google getting into space isnt going to hurt.Well hurt google anyhow...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      except that no project that occurs beyond 10 miles of earth's surface has ever come in on-budget. in general you're well ahead of the curve if you manage to only triple your original estimates (though in this case I'd expect google to axe the project before it reaches 5B).

  11. zen1
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder...

    google = skynet? or vice versa?

  12. Kharkov
    Headmaster

    Er, maths calling...

    Ok, 1 billion dollars - cool.

    180 satellites - nice.

    The one divided by the other... hang on, hang on... a hair over 5.5 million dollars per satellite.

    Hmm. unless you can launch at least 10 of these things on ONE launcher (and yes, I'm assuming a Falcon 9 'cos ULA prices? Don't bother.) then no-one's going to take your money. I'm not an expert but I doubt that 10 or more of these things could reach their intended orbits from only one launcher.

    We need a pedantic math nazi icon...

  13. Lionel Baden

    what i forsee

    This is perfect for the IoT

    Latency doesnt matter,

    emergency net connection (your not going to be gaming)

    this will be the true second tier internet

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