Google To Build Wireless Networks in Africa, Asia Using Blimps

| by Emily Smith
article imagearticle image

Google will finance, build and help operate wireless networks across Africa and Asia using high-altitude balloons and blimps, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The company has also considered an ecosystem of Android smartphones and a satellite-based network.

"There's not going to be one technology that will be the silver bullet," one person familiar with the project said.

The plan will connect at least one billion more people to the Internet, and is intended to serve people outside of major cities where connection is not currently available, like Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The project will also increase Internet speed at urban centers in cities.

Google has funded small-scale trials using TV broadcast waves through the U.S. and in Africa, most notably in Cape Town, South Africa. A base station there broadcasts signals to wireless access boxes in high schools over a few miles away. Specialized software detects unused waves and accesses those waves for Internet connection.

In March, Google said the technology is “well-suited to provide low cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure.”

According to people familiar with the initiative, Google Chief Executive Larry Page has been secretly researching alternative methods for providing Internet access. Now, Sergey Bin, Google’s founder and head of the Google X lab, leads the operation in connection with the company’s non-profit branch,

For a company that derives a ton of revenue from selling online ads, expanding access to its service could lead to huge profits for Google. Currently, only half of the world population has access to an Internet connection, according to Forrester Research.

Over the past few years, Google has partnered with Dish Network, acquired Motorola and in O3b Networks Ltd. in preparation for its project.

Talks with Dakar and Senegal are planned to discuss regulations within various countries. 

Sources: Wired, The Wall Street Journal