Google plans to launch 180 internet satellites



They plan to one-up Motorola’s disastrous Iridium constellation?

(reading the article)

Oh, I see that the Wall Street Journal thought the same thing.

I wonder how they’re going to handle the ground link? One of the problems with LEO satellites is that you either need a ton of ground stations or you need satellite to satellite communication hops. The former is outrageously expensive and politically troublesome, the latter has terrible latency and cuts your bandwidth substantially.

One wonders who the target market for this technology is as well. This was the fundamental problem with Iridium. People with money already have good internet for the most part. Poor people living in remote areas can’t afford satellite time. For the few rich people in remote areas there is already BGAN and a handful of other satellite providers.

Remember in the mid 90s when MSFT was going to do this? Anything about Google creeps me out a bit but I still crave anything satellite related, ever since I was geeking with Oscars hamsats using a handheld radio and a homemade yaggi antenna for voice comms. I think AO-27 and AO-51 both failed so no more FM sats for now.
I can only hope that if it comes true this will have a nice hackable bluetooth dongle that is easy to interface with using any OS like the GPS dongles we have now. Thinking of being able to grab a movie while flying a light aircraft or upload fresh pics while remote backpacking or cycle touring.

I think this is Google’s only option - there’s no way they can get traction in developed countries because cable providers are fighting them tooth-and-nail to prevent any sort of upgrade to existing physical lines (i.e. some bigger internet tubes). So, get `em while their third-world, and broaden that base early.

Isn’t this sad? I’d love to get some satellite internet here in Baltimore, because the service here is horrible and overpriced. What do I have to do to get decent streaming? Move to Namibia?

Google plans to launch 180 internet spy satellites.

Satellite service will never be as good as your landline service unless you’re trapped on some ancient phone line and only have dialup. Even then the dailup will be cheaper. High speed satellite internet service runs into fundamental physical limitations that will prevent it from ever being cheaply available to the masses.

Things you would have to overcome to make cheap fast satellite internet for everybody:

  1. Limited RF spectrum–and this problem only gets worse over time
  2. Cheap high gain high speed antennas/satellite modems, especially if they have to track fast moving LEOs.
  3. Launch costs (the only thing that goes higher than satellites is the bill for getting them up there)
  4. Ground facility maintenance costs
  5. Satellite construction costs–space rated hardware is expensive

Doing stuff in space is expensive, and providing high speed internet to every subscriber does not scale. It’s an inherently expensive proposition.

What you say makes sense, but at the same time, I’m not convinced. If folks are waving dollars, and it’s already being done elsewhere (Romania is beating us, f’chrissakes!), then it’s not a matter of scale, it’s a matter of greed.

Romania has affordable high speed satellite internet?!?

The challenges for ground based service are quite a bit different than mass Satellite service, and are more political than technical. With satellite service the challenges come down to fundamental problems like sharing a single RF spectrum with the entire world and the speed of light.

Why all the naysayers?
Communication satellites have been around since the beginning of the space age. It’s not like it’s something groundbreaking. Google has tons of money, it’s about time it throws some into satellites. The satellites would certainly be used, as opposed to new-fangled self driving cars or google glass.

It’s feasible to make a high speed internet satellite communication system. People have done it. Making it affordable is something nobody has even come close to achieving, and the approach they proposed was one that has already failed spectacularly once.

I think this is Google sending out feelers about a possible technology, but I don’t think it will ever materialize.

I’m serious about the cost. Check out the rates for BGAN, and don’t forget this is on top of buying several hundred dollars of satellite gear in the first place:

$4.50 per Megabyte. A funny cat GIF could cost you $15-20 easily. And BGAN is popular because it is cheaper than most alternatives.

Oh, and if you want, you could in fact use Iridium today. The constellation is still up there and people are still using it. You can expect a data rate of around 4800 bps (although I experienced data rates as low as 900bps frequently while using it) and it will hiccup every time it has to do a handoff (newer modems might be better at this). It costs something like $7 a minute. You can also use it as a phone service (the original purpose in fact), but it makes you sound like a robot and the delay is just long enough to be noticeable and annoying. It is truly the ISP of last resort.

The lengths they go to to serve people advertising!

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