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Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the google-sky dept.

The Almighty Buck 170

An anonymous reader writes "Google is planning to spend over $1 billion on a fleet of satellites to extend Internet access to unwired regions around the world. 'The projected price ranges from about $1 billion to more than $3 billion, the people familiar with the project said, depending on the network's final design and a later phase that could double the number of satellites. Based on past satellite ventures, costs could rise. Google's project is the latest effort by a Silicon Valley company to extend Internet coverage from the sky to help its business on the ground. Google and Facebook Inc. are counting on new Internet users in underserved regions to boost revenue, and ultimately, earnings. "Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable," said Susan Irwin, president of Irwin Communications Inc., a satellite-communications research firm. "Wired connectivity only goes so far and wireless cellular networks reach small areas. Satellites can gain much broader access."'"

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Interesting... (1)

thedonger (1317951) | about 4 months ago | (#47146559)

It's also a neat way to boost the sale of satellite transmission and receiving equipment. Will individuals need the equipment, or will an ISP of sorts swoop in monopolize the communication with the satellite?

Re:Interesting... (1)

thedonger (1317951) | about 4 months ago | (#47146571)

...communication with the satellite?

*The satellite that serves a given area.

Re:Interesting... (2)

AlecC (512609) | about 4 months ago | (#47147295)

Very unlikely to be in geosynchronous orbit, which is a long way away - about 20, 000 miles compared to Low Earth Orbit at 120 miles or so. Inverse square law means that both ends would need much more power. Handing from one station to another on the fly is a solved problem.

Re:Interesting... (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 4 months ago | (#47147355)

The article says "180 small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites." For lower altitude (LEO) satellites, the same satellite doesn't stay fixed over the same area. As far as end users are concerned, you could probably look at Google's fiber optic deployments to see how it is with middle men getting between end users and Google's network hardware.

Re:Interesting... (4, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | about 4 months ago | (#47147537)

Google just bought Titan Aerospace, which builds and sells solar powered airplanes that can fly for 5 years straight. In theory they would intercept the satellite transmission and then beam the signal down to "the last mile", or in this case last 40,000 ft.

Satellites aren't evil, sure. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146563)

Only when they complete some sort of "giant data laser" will people wise up, maybe.

Re:Satellites aren't evil, sure. (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47146995)

Don't worry. Sharks can't survive in space.

Re:Satellites aren't evil, sure. (1)

Zalbik (308903) | about 4 months ago | (#47147441)

Yeah sure, wait until you see the latest product of Google Labs:

Sharks with frickin' lasers attached to the top of their spacesuit!

180 satellites... (3, Interesting)

Thagg (9904) | about 4 months ago | (#47146575)

Kind of like a social network of satellites :)

Seriously, this makes a lot of sense. At the low altitudes that these will fly, the power necessary to reach the satellites will be much lower than geosynchronous or even Iridium satellites. Mass producing small satellites probably is cheaper than building a few big ones, as well.

Re:180 satellites... (1, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 months ago | (#47146629)

What a great way to build an global sigint platform. I am sure that those sats could pick up any radar signal transmitted on Earth in real time.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

Dins (2538550) | about 4 months ago | (#47146689)

Meh, I'm sure the NSA already has that. Why not let Google in on the "fun".......

Re:180 satellites... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147259)

They probably don't have this.... yet

I mean, who do you think is paying for this? ROI on 3 billion dollars is hard to achieve via search results!

Re:180 satellites... (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 months ago | (#47147541)

Despite making almost $13 billion primarily on search-related ads, Google is not a search company. Google is an intelligence company.

I don't mean the spying kind of intelligence, either. I'm referring to their use of enormous data sets to feed complex decision algorithms that learn in real time what decisions to make. I would call it "artificial intelligence", except that much of the process is guided by humans. Perhaps "guided intelligence" is a better term.

Regardless, the more data they have, the more accurate their results. That accuracy is where their money really comes from. Consider one revenue stream, that of targeted advertising. They target ads to people with a higher chance of being interested in the advertised product. That means their algorithm needs to understand not just the consumer's interests, but also what the product does, and what other solutions compete with it.

From global Internet coverage, without even looking at the data itself, Google can infer political trends (traffic response to major campaign events), working schedules (traffic cycles), and breaking local news (traffic spikes). In a developing country, Google gets to set the standard for service, gaining a de facto monopoly over those targeted ads, cell phone sales (because there will surely be a new Nexus model for compatible service), and of course, pure brand loyalty.

Re:180 satellites... (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 months ago | (#47147367)

I figured that the Iridium and GPS constellations had some Sigint functions paying some cash to add a sigint receiver to each bird should not be that expensive. Even if you limit to strong emitters around the XBand you should a large number of SAM, AWACS, and AI radars.

Re:180 satellites... (4, Interesting)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#47146647)

They'd better be cheaply launchable as well. LEO satellites don't live in stable orbits. They have a definite, limited lifespan before they deorbit, as Earth's atmosphere doesn't "end here" - it just gets thinner and thinner as you climb (and no - it's not an asymptotic function of altitude. There is definitely a point where Earth's atmosphere ends, but it's above the orbit of LEO satellites).

Re:180 satellites... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146683)

I believe the "end here" is arbitrary - it is asymptotic... until it impacts the solar atmosphere... And that varies depending on the direction you go.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 4 months ago | (#47146707)

I think its fair to say that when the number of gas molecules per unit volume is the same as space in the rest of the solar system then you've left the atmosphere.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146871)

LEO is much cheaper to reach then GEO. also, hall effect ion thrusters pretty much make it so a satellite can stay in orbit for over a decade without needing refueling.

I would hope google would upgrade the satnet after 14 years when the satellites start falling out of orbit.

Re:180 satellites... (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 4 months ago | (#47147119)

I can't find an exact altitude for these satellites, but O3b (whom Google is working with on this project) is putting satellites in orbits 5,000 miles above Earth, which is definitely not LEO. That's lower than conventional geosynchronous communications satellites (which sit ~22,000 above Earth), but well above the low-Earth orbit cutoff (which is roughly 1,000 miles and below). At 5,000 miles, the atmosphere is thin enough to be considered non-existent. Now, Google might be looking at lower orbits for these newer satellites, but they haven't said yet.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 months ago | (#47146797)

I'd really like to know what the real business plan is. Are they really after the part of the world's population that is currently unreachable, or is it a parallel effort to Google Fiber where they're hoping to get access to a greater percentage of the first world's internet traffic so they can monetize it?

My money's on the latter.

Re:180 satellites... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147047)

But if the former effect is achieved as a side effect, then it's a win-win. Sometimes acting on your own selfish interests is not a bad thing.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

oobayly (1056050) | about 4 months ago | (#47147193)

I think they'll be called a KH11 Block V "DNE" [wikipedia.org] - That'll be their revenue stream.

Re:180 satellites... (2)

stewsters (1406737) | about 4 months ago | (#47146823)

Also, you will have less latency than if they were in geosynchronous orbit because they are closer. Which is a significant factor if people want to use them for real time communication.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 4 months ago | (#47146911)

An ad company: 180 / 6 = 30 sats per letter ; we'll see soon in the sky "Google" in big letters..

Re:180 satellites... (2)

sessamoid (165542) | about 4 months ago | (#47147167)

Kind of like a social network of satellites :)

It does. They should give it a name, "Skynet" or something like that.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 months ago | (#47147239)

At the low altitudes that these will fly, the power necessary to reach the satellites will be much lower than geosynchronous or even Iridium satellites.

Maybe dumb questions, but is there a limit to how low-power a device could be and still reach a satellite, if the satellite had a powerful antenna (akin to a radio telescope) to pick it up? Granted you'd need a large number of such antenna to cover the earth since they'd be highly directional.

Second, is there a way to make a directional antenna small enough to fit in a phone that always points "up"? Part of me says, no, an antenna has to be a certain size to receive a given wavelength (long enough to penetrate atmosphere). But part of me thinks the larger antenna could be simulated with an array of smaller ones, like one little antenna at each corner of a phone, which could be 'aimed' by signal processing to point up.

Re:180 satellites... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 4 months ago | (#47147261)

At the low altitudes that these will fly, the power necessary to reach the satellites will be much lower than geosynchronous or even Iridium satellites.

The link budget calculations have too many other things to say how important that is without looking at the other factors, especially when you consider that battery power, not Tx power, is what matters. Iridium satellites sit at 780km, but I haven't found any info about the Google proposal. Also, Iridium satellites run L-band (1-2GHz) but Google's are Ku-band (12-18GHz). Power amps are much less efficient at Ku, and there is greater rain fade. 2dB may not sound like much at first, but it means you need 43% more Tx power. You can have much higher gain antennas at Ku band, but that only matters if you can keep the things pointed right.

Did someone say satellites? (4, Funny)

Dega704 (1454673) | about 4 months ago | (#47146579)

Said Elon Musk, perking up.

Re:Did someone say satellites? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147403)

Said Elon Musk, perking up.

I bet you'd pay to suck Elon Musk's cock.

Do us all a favor and die, today.

Complete Global Wi-Fi Saturation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146581)

I wonder if it would be possible, using this method, to essentially create a single wifi network that covers the entire world. I mean, in theory there'd be no need for 4G or 5G if you could get free or cheap wifi from a satellite. Sure, it might not be the fastest wifi, but it would be nice to be able to connect to the internet anywhere.

Re:Complete Global Wi-Fi Saturation? (0)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#47146675)

Guaranteed two second latency, minimum. It actually takes time to get a radio signal up there. Less for LEOS than for satellites in geosynchronous orbit, but still...

Re:Complete Global Wi-Fi Saturation? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146761)

Depends on the orbit, if it is a very low orbit, say 180km altitude, the latency will be 4*180000m/c=2.4ms. Note that this assumed that both the user and the ground segment station are covered by the same satellite. if the sat needs to relay to other satellites the latency will obviously increase, but thats not different than latency through fiber optic cables, you just need slightly longer distances since the satellite is at a higher altitude than the ground below it, but only little compared to the radius of the earth.

Re:Complete Global Wi-Fi Saturation? (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | about 4 months ago | (#47146877)

I'm on the west coast of the US, and I can ping the Chicago Tribune in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... ) -- and, presumably, there are zero switches/routers floating between me and a satellite, whereas there are quite a few from the west coast to the midwest.

Of course, the satellites will be further away than this if they are not directly overhead, but still -- I think 2 seconds is definitely on the long side.

Re:Complete Global Wi-Fi Saturation? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147053)

>Of course, the satellites will be further away than this if they are not directly overhead, but still -- I think 2 seconds is definitely on the long side.

http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2488 (:
      Many communications satellites are located at Geostationary Orbit [....]
      The propagation time for a radio signal to travel twice that distance (corresponding to a ground station directly below the satellite) is 239.6
      milliseconds (ms) [Mar78]. For ground stations at the edge of the view area of the satellite, the distance traveled is 2 x 41,756 km for a total
      propagation delay of 279.0 ms These delays are for one ground station-to-satellite-to-ground station route (or "hop"). Therefore, the propagation
      delay for a message and the corresponding reply (one round-trip time or RTT) could be at least **558 ms**.
      [...]
      delay to a LEO orbit ranges from several milliseconds when communicating with a satellite directly overhead, to as much as
      **80 ms** when the satellite is on the horizon.

To reach acceptable delays, you need a very good link protocol with excellent FEC to prevent TCP ack based error recovery or congestion contention to kick in i.e. trading of some bandwidth against reliability.

Re:Complete Global Wi-Fi Saturation? (1)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#47147007)

Pretty sure you have the math off. It's about 250ms each way to GEO, so that makes a 1 second ping time, not 2 seconds. Plus, I know this because one time I actually did a ping from wireless internet at a highway rest area. (What true geek wouldn't?) In LEO, the latency will be a lot less because ~150mi altitude vs ~25000mi is a big difference. And of course GEO isn't such a great idea unless you have a fixed dish antenna.

How about a satellite or two for the US? (5, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 4 months ago | (#47146607)

There are a lot of places here in the US, where even basic DSL or cellular service is fairly hard to come by, and if one goes with a conventional satellite provider, it becomes very expensive very fast.

This is something that I have high hopes for... done right, and assuming the uplink/downlink antennas are not too expensive, this would allow a baseline of Internet access in a whole region. Latency is "meh", but it is a lot better than what a lot of places have right now.

Re:How about a satellite or two for the US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146987)

Right now they prefer to use low altitude satellites to cover the entire globe uniformly except the poles. I guess they could target specific regions with geostationary satellites, but is that really better than adding more low altitude satellites?

Re:How about a satellite or two for the US? (3, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#47147477)

My workplace is in an unincorporated urban area of Los Angeles (91748) where Verizon has a monopoly on phone service and none of the cable companies offer service to commercial areas. Verizon realizes they have a monopoly on commercial Internet service, so has not bothered upgrading their phone lines. The DSL speeds are 1.5 Mbps down, 384 kbps up. They charge $50/mo for this. Some phone lines are capable of 3.0/.768, but talking with other nearby businesses it seems to be about one in 5-10 phone lines which are able to get the higher speeds. (The "higher" speed is $100/mo.)

I went camping up in the San Bernardino Mountains [google.com] this past weekend. The 3G internet speeds there on my phone were 1.8 Mbps down, 0.8 Mbps up. What Verizon is (not) doing with DSL in areas where they have no competition is absolutely criminal. If Google can pull this off, it'll be a work-around to the "one DSL company and one cable Internet company are sufficient competition" court decisions. And a good kick to the rear of the existing de facto monopolies as they'd be forced to actually offer competitive service and pricing or lose all their customers. The satellites being in LEO means they'll be circling the Earth, so they would cover the U.S. just as well as Central Africa.

How will they recoup costs? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 4 months ago | (#47146611)

Will they provide those people with cost-effective end user devices, too? I'm thinking that a lot of the under-served are 2nd / 3rd world, or extremely rural 1st world. Places where infrastructure of any kind is severely lacking. It would be nice to get these people onto the internet, of course, but I think they might benefit more from electricity first. When you live somewhere where you pay for electricity as per litre of diesel in your geny, I don't think internet access features high on the list of "Things I use electricity for".

Re: How will they recoup costs? (4, Funny)

Trashcan Romeo (2675341) | about 4 months ago | (#47146747)

Facebook Status Update: dying of dysentery

Re:How will they recoup costs? (3, Informative)

Albanach (527650) | about 4 months ago | (#47146857)

I think you might be surprised at some of the case studies surrounding mobile/cell phone use in central Africa.

here's a study from Tufts [tufts.edu] showing farmers in Ghana establishing the market price for crops, and labourers searching for job opportunities.

There's lots of more recent coverage too if you do some Google searches.

Re:How will they recoup costs? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 months ago | (#47147285)

Those aren't sat-phones though, that's the point. So you'd need a cellular infrastructure on the ground (or hovering overhead?) to reach out to all those cheap, low power (i.e. cellular) handsets.

Re:How will they recoup costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146955)

Ad-funded internet?
They could make a special version of say, Chrome, that has an ad-strip.
Easiest, least unobtrusive way I can think of. What is 16pixels less height going to do given they'd be getting internet access funded by their use of it.
Biggest problem will be useful ads for people in rural areas and lesser economies.

Not sure if they'd be able to get that billion back quickly, or even reasonably soon, with these communities given the lesser ad-profiles. (just going on the little I know admittedly)

Re:How will they recoup costs? (1)

AlecC (512609) | about 4 months ago | (#47147369)

As well as the market information given by others, which can effectively double income, Africa has developed mobile and small scale banking. So it could bring them financial services: money transfers from family working in the city, the ability to save safely or to borrow to fund new businesses.The relatively small amount of energy used by communications technology can pay off very fast. And they have a lot of sun there for solar power rather than a genny,

Sounds like Coca Cola (3, Informative)

rjstanford (69735) | about 4 months ago | (#47146615)

They've brought a surprising amount of electrical power - first wired, now often solar - to remote parts of the globe simply because refrigeration helps them sell enough more product to make the investment worthwhile. This can be quite a good thing if the infrastructure remains open enough.

Re:Sounds like Coca Cola (4, Interesting)

bigpat (158134) | about 4 months ago | (#47146741)

I recall Dean Kamen saying how he agreed to help Coca Cola with their new soda machine that could dispense hundreds of different flavors if they helped him distribute his water purification systems in parts of the world where Coke was one of very few distributors. Win-win [wired.co.uk] . Sometimes people can use companies not just to make money.

Re:Sounds like Coca Cola (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146895)

At least something good came from those horrible new coke machines!

Re:Sounds like Coca Cola (1)

Pascoea (968200) | about 4 months ago | (#47147443)

.... those horrible new coke machines!

Just curious, what's your problem with them? I thought they were pretty damn awesome.

Re:Sounds like Coca Cola (2)

afidel (530433) | about 4 months ago | (#47146793)

Yeah, I've also heard that NGO's attempting to get supplies into the most backwater bush locations will often contract with the local Coke distributor because they reach like 99.95% of the worlds population.

I've seen a lot of James Bond movies (3, Funny)

14erCleaner (745600) | about 4 months ago | (#47146621)

So I know where this might be going.

Didn't someone do this? (1)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about 4 months ago | (#47146645)

I recall reading a while back about a project like this. They wanted to put satellites in orbit that would be continously streaming a pre-selected amount of internet (wikipedia and other such actually useful websites) so that you wouldn't necessarily get two-way communication, but you'd get access to all the latest and greatest from online resources.

Re:Didn't someone do this? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47146889)

I've wondered if/when SiriusXM or even DirctTV might start "datacasting" in a similar manner.

Re:Didn't someone do this? (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 4 months ago | (#47147143)

I've wondered if/when SiriusXM or even DirctTV might start "datacasting" in a similar manner.

I think the word is still broadcasting.

For a short while, the BBC used to transmit computer programs in BBC basic over the air. With a suitably equipped BBC micro, you could download and run them.

Re:Didn't someone do this? (1)

stg (43177) | about 4 months ago | (#47147547)

Did it require special equipment on the user side? I have heard of this being done in Brazil, too, but all you needed was to tape the transmission, then load it normally with a tape player on the computer.

Re:Didn't someone do this? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47146909)

I had the same idea, except mine involved piggybacking on the sat TV system - putting a drive in the decoders, which have ethernet ports anyway. I envisioned it as a way to distribute things like software updates - a protocol by which updaters may query other devices on the LAN for files of a specified hash, and if the sat decoder managed to grab it then it'll serve the file up. But I am not rich, nor have I any business skill, so my idea remains no more than a comment on slashdot.

Yes, reach the poor people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146653)

They can't afford anything you're selling but ok!

Re:Yes, reach the poor people! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 4 months ago | (#47146961)

Exactly. I wonder why Google and Facebook haven't figured out what Hulu has down to a science...but anyway I hope they generously continue to bleed money onto the world's impoverished masses!

Re:Yes, reach the poor people! (5, Insightful)

geekanarchy (769840) | about 4 months ago | (#47147091)

Some poor people are poor because they always buy what you're selling.

Re:Yes, reach the poor people! (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 4 months ago | (#47147215)

Good one.

How about breaking the Comcast tyranny also? (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 4 months ago | (#47146685)

How about freeing the rest us from the tyranny of Comcast? I am tired of being under their thumb.

Re:How about breaking the Comcast tyranny also? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47146757)

Where is the bottleneck? what part of your community is locking you into Comcast?

Re:How about breaking the Comcast tyranny also? (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#47146807)

Their exclusive contracts with the existing infrastructure. Oh, we're an open town - I can change providers any time I like, but it requires moving to a new house.

Make every phone a satellite phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146693)

Suddenly, the wireless carriers couldn't be less relevant.

Re:Make every phone a satellite phone (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#47146833)

Oh they will be relevant... They hold the spectrum space your satellite's are going to need....

Iridium flares (3, Interesting)

wdconinc (704592) | about 4 months ago | (#47146697)

Sounds an awful lot like Iridium [wikipedia.org] satellites: cell phone connectivity in the middle of nowhere. Their business plan must have overlooked that there is hardly anyone in the middle of nowhere, so they went bankrupt. The primary result is satellite flashes (iridium flares) that are brighter than Venus.

Re:Iridium flares (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#47146825)

The only part they overlooked was not that there wan't anyone in the middle of nowhere, but that most of the people in the middle of nowhere found $5/minute on a large, dedicated device a touch on the pricey side.

Re:Iridium flares (1)

westlake (615356) | about 4 months ago | (#47147171)

The only part they overlooked was not tthat... most of the people in the middle of nowhere found $5/minute on a large, dedicated device a touch on the pricey side.

With billions of dollars of infrastructure to build and maintain, how can the Google service be made more affordable?

Re:Iridium flares (1)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#47147149)

Iridium had problems because it was just a little bit ahead of its time. First of all, it uses analog hardware. To use it for digital data, you need a modem, and you can forget about going beyond 9600 baud. If they had done it a few years later, it could probably have been digital. With no digital capability, the only people who had any real use for the service were ships at sea and polar explorers.

The other big problem was launch costs. Then the whole project went bankrupt and was bought cheap. Launch costs are coming down with SpaceX now in the picture, and guess what? They're replacing them in 2015-2017 with a next generation Iridium.

It seems to me like what Google is planning isn't dumb at all. This may be just the right time to do it.

ICO Global Communications (2)

RockClimbingFool (692426) | about 4 months ago | (#47146705)

A few companies have proposed this type of system, most notably ICO Global Communications [wikipedia.org] . It hasn't ended well.

Granted, Google is a much more established company than some collection of venture capitalists, but manufacturing, launching and managing constellations of satellites is extremely complex. You can't do it alone and at least one company along the way will over-promise and under-deliver. That stalls the overall program and problems just snowball from there.

Google obviously has experience managing some mapping satellites, but scaling up to dozens and hundreds is not straightforward.

Re:ICO Global Communications (1)

jratcliffe (208809) | about 4 months ago | (#47147129)

FYI, they don't manage mapping satellites. They buy the imaging (primarily from DigitalGlobe).

Would there be one launch per satellite? (1)

Jordan1519 (3667517) | about 4 months ago | (#47146715)

Would there be one launch per satellite? I don't have the first clue about the price to do something like that but 1-3 bill sounds pretty low.

Re:Would there be one launch per satellite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146791)

No, if the satellite is small you can put in orbit a lot of them with a single launch. Google 'cubesat' for an extreme version of this idea.

Re:Would there be one launch per satellite? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#47146855)

No, if the satellite is small you can put in orbit a lot of them with a single launch. Google 'cubesat' for an extreme version of this idea.

Well, yes, but the problem you will have is the limited orbital variations you can get from a single launch of multiple satellites. There is a trade off here between launch weight and fuel and the initial orbits of everything. The last thing you really want is 10 small satellites that are all in the same orbit.

Re:Would there be one launch per satellite? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47146921)

Ion thruster. Might take a year to get them into place, but a lot cheaper than chemical rockets from ground each time.

Re:Would there be one launch per satellite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147325)

stick hall effect thrusters on them, and as long as the orbital plane is right. you can adjust their orbits so they have full satellite coverage. would have to do a launch for each plane though. It is amazing how many satellites you can jam in a Falcon 9's fairing.

Re:Would there be one launch per satellite? (2)

Thagg (9904) | about 4 months ago | (#47146859)

Certainly not. These are very small satellites, probably will be launched something like 20 at a time. Maybe 9 orbital planes with 20 satellites each?

Re:Would there be one launch per satellite? (2)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#47147209)

Most of Iridium NEXT will go up starting next year with ten per launch on a Falcon 9. The deal will be half a billion dollars for seven launches. There will also be a Dnepr launch of two more, probably the first two to go up. So half that billion for launch costs leaves you with another half billion at the low end for hardware. Plus, Iridium has been up 16 years, so the basic patents are going to expire soon.

So the motorola purchase still has impact. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#47146753)

Looks like when Google bought Motorola it also inherited the madcap team that conceived the irridium project. [wikipedia.org]

Re:So the motorola purchase still has impact. (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 months ago | (#47146821)

Well they did keep all the patents after they discarded Motorola - it was likely the plan all along.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146767)

So Google has finally started construction of skynet.

Doesn't seem like a wise investment.. (1, Insightful)

Junta (36770) | about 4 months ago | (#47146775)

counting on new Internet users in underserved regions to boost revenue, and ultimately, earnings.

If they were doing this out of a sense of humanitarianism thinking the internet is so important that they want to do some altruistic investment, that's one thing.

If they are thinking they have a significant revenue opportunity in regions without infrastructure to otherwise participate in the internet, that seems a dubious investment. It seems that such areas are underserrved because they can't afford it. Spending a large amount of money to work around one fairly small facet of their reality seems like it would be challenging to recoup. I suppose as a reach they could believe that internet access would accelerate some elevation in socioeconomic conditions for such areas, though that would be a bit of overconfidence in what access to the internet could help a society overcome...

I personally am surprised at just how much of the population is enthusiastic about the increasing breadth and depth of control over our lives being assumed by a very small number of companies (e.g. amazon, google, apple). In internet technology in particular it is sort of sad to see since that has had so much of its functionality well federated and we are generally seeing it degrade into proprietary walled gardens with 'trusted' companies owning their little piece of ecosystem wholly.

of course they are (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146837)

can't spy on people's internet use if they don't have internet.

I prefer the balloon with trajectory control (1)

maitas (98290) | about 4 months ago | (#47146853)

Since they invested in balloon, it seems it is far cheaper. And they can control the trajectory using this method https://smartech.gatech.edu/bi... [gatech.edu]

g00gle spies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146901)

g00gle spies

And the oligopoly continues ... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146903)

Another couple of years or so, and all of our infrastructure will be owned by corporations, who will allow us to use it at their sufferance, and only by giving them everything they want.

These same companies continue to bribe governments to give them favorable laws and outcomes (not to mention lower taxes).

Corporate America, and their global lackeys, are pretty much ruining the global economy.

A fleet of satellites sounds pretty cool (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146989)

Ballmer is spending 2 Billion on a sketchy basketball team, Apple is spending 3 Billion on sketchy, mid-quality headphones, and Google is spending less than that and getting a fleet of friggin satellites? I think that Google wins this round.

Only a Billion? (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#47147011)

I don't think a Billion is enough to do much more than a proof of concept. Google is going to have to pony up a few more bills or this will be a huge boondoggle. But if anybody has the money it's Google.

Next up will be the purchase of the spectrum space needed for this. I'm thinking LightSquared has some licenses they could get by talking to the bankruptcy judge..

Nothing new under the Sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147013)

Google is the new Microsoft.

Remember when Microsoft (well, Teledesic) tried to do the same in the mid 1990s. According Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teledesic ):

"Teledesic was a company founded in the 1990s to build a commercial broadband satellite constellation for Internet services. Using low-earth orbiting satellites small antennas could be used to provide uplinks of as much as 100 Mbit/second and downlinks of up to 720 Mbit/second. The original 1995 proposal was extremely ambitious, costing over US$9 billion and originally planning 840 active satellites with in-orbit spares at an altitude of 700 km.[1] In 1997 the scheme was scaled back to 288 active satellites at 1400 km[2] and was later scaled back further in complexity and number of satellites as the projected market demand continued to decrease."

Why didn't they just buy ViaSat? (2)

kriston (7886) | about 4 months ago | (#47147069)

Why didn't they just buy ViaSat, their space and ground segments, and their Exede brand? Charlie Ergen isn't going to sell HughesNet anytime soon.

It must be nice for your stock to be so excessively overvalued to have so much money to throw around on all these ancillary projects.

Tapioca business planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147327)

See, the myth in America is that entrepreneurs have this ability to know what markets want and that they are really smart. Because in our society, money equals brains.

Now, what most people don't realize and most business folks refuse to admit is that there is quite a bit of luck.

So, what do reasonably intelligent business people do when they wake up and realize this? They start "throwing tapioca at the wall" and see what sticks.

Or better yet, copy some company that is successful and (hopefully) do it better - Microsoft was the champion of that strategy.

That is why no matter how "great" an entrepreneur is, they will always rack up a bunch of failures before hitting it big.

Richard Branson is a genius in getting other people to pay for his ventures while he reaps the bulk of the benefits.

Ah, Google - that is where Google is sort of right now. They need to keep growing to keep that obscene value of their stock and they need more markets for their advertising. After all, that is what Google is - an advertising company. The tech they develop is just ways to get more eyeballs to their advertising - whether directly or getting more people to the net or getting the net in front of folks for longer hours per day.

Why? (1)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#47147087)

"Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable,"

Why? Keep in mind I see no altruism here, so what's the motivation? Is this some sort of gold rush to capture the uncovered areas? What would a large corporation expect to monetize in an area that has little to no infrastructure?

China 1.3 billion not covered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147211)

how about 'negoitiating for access' to the Chinese market, ON THE GROUND they are missing out on 1,300,000,000 people, ohh yeaH!

Yeehah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147263)

Podunk, USA will finally get something better than dialup.

Satellites? (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about 4 months ago | (#47147265)

The cheap bastards. If they'd added a couple of billions, they could have gotten a headphone company.

Taxes (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about 4 months ago | (#47147501)

It is more likely Apple bought that company for tax purposes.

The product manager from software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147393)

Product will be in beta and repair problems will be posted on /.

Only for internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47147421)

Not at all for use in controlling a Google robot army in their takeover of the planet

cool satellite, so: (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 4 months ago | (#47147473)

Just imagine a Beowulf cluster.... oh, never mind.

On the subject of Beowulf clusters: now that Tolkien's translation [amazon.com] is available, do we need a new stupid /. meme?

But will they also have GPS? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 4 months ago | (#47147519)

Will these puppies also have some form of GPS in them? Not only will they know what filth you are posting but they'll know where you posted it from.

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