25 Jun

Google will lease its balloon-based wireless network to telcos

By WiFiNovation

Google’s “Captain of Moonshots,” Astro Teller, yesterday described how the company dropped a plan to purchase spectrum for its balloon-based wireless network, replacing it with a plan to lease the network to telcos in various countries.

The goal of Project Loon is “covering the world with balloons that are like floating cell towers so that everyone in the world could have Internet connectivity,” Teller said at Tech Crunch Disrupt. The Loon team had spent six months “arguing with these large companies” to make a deal to buy spectrum, expending “easily 600 man hours of really heavy lifting,” Teller said.

“We thought this was going to be absolutely critical to the project, and we wanted to get it done before we launched,” Teller said. Then, a year ago, “we went to [CEO] Larry [Page] and Larry said, ‘nah.’ You’re going to hit a double, that’s not interesting.”

Page challenged the Loon team to hit a home run, and they came up with a plan to lease the balloons to telcos in various countries. “We did come up with something that’s way better than buying a relatively thin piece of harmonized spectrum that’s now the way that Google Loon is going to function,” Teller said. “Basically, by using the spectrum that already exists in each country, and then if you’re a telco in some country, I come to you and I say, ‘you’re just going to lease the balloons when they pass over Argentina. It’s your spectrum. You already have the spectrum.'”

Google has said its goal is to bring 3G-like speed to the “two out of every three people on Earth” who lack a fast, affordable Internet connection. Signals would be transmitted from ground stations to the balloons and back down to antennas on people’s homes. It’s still in testing, so it’s not clear when it could be widely available.

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