Google’s Lofty Plans for Delivering Internet Access to the Unconnected Billions

by Matt Klassen on April 24, 2015

Facebook may have its drones set to deliver the Internet to the unconnected billions on our planet, but Google has its own lofty plans for global Internet service. Dubbed Project Loon, Google X, the company’s research and development arm, is in the process of establishing a global Internet network on the backs of specialized high-altitude balloons, an audacious project that the company says is progressing nicely since it was first announced in 2013.

Earlier this week Astro Teller, the head of the Google X research lab, said that its floating global Internet connectivity solution would be mobile platform agnostic, meaning it will provide Internet connectivity via the balloons to both Android and iOS devices, the two most popular smartphone operating systems in the world.

The inclusion of rival Apple’s iOS in its Internet service is certainly no altruistic endeavour though, as like its other rival Facebook, Google’s ultimate goal here is obvious: Be the one to deliver the Internet to the unconnected billions and you will control the Internet for the unconnected billions. It’s a small price to pay to embrace your largest mobile competitor if global Internet domination is the real prize.

As CNET’s Nate Ralph explains, “Google’s Project Loon balloons serve as a sort of aerial network, navigating stratospheric winds and communicating with an area’s wireless provider, ground-based antennas and one another to potentially offer connectivity to anyone with a smartphone. The aim is to bring Internet access to the 2 out of 3 people in the world who aren’t connected. Back in June of 2014, Project Loon successfully beamed the Internet into the classrooms of a small town in rural Brazil, marking a significant “first” for the project.”

Along with the rather obvious and anticlimactic announcement that Project Loon will support iOS, Teller announced that his firm is continuing to advance its control over the balloons, meaning much like Facebook’s drone project, Google can guide its legion of balloons almost anywhere in the world to beam down connectivity wherever it needs to be.

As mentioned, it’s really no surprise that Google embraced iOS connectivity with its audacious floating Internet project, for if you’re pursuing the goal of global connectivity, it really doesn’t make such sense to limit access to your own Android operating system.

Like Facebook, the prize here for Google is not simply global connectivity, but global control. If Google is able to deliver the Internet to the unconnected billions, it will also be able to deliver its expansive suite of software products and services to the world, which is, of course, the real money-maker. If Google is able to get to the masses first the better chance it has for its services to become the default options for those people, meaning the more eyes it will have on its money-making advertising.

So now that both Facebook and Google have announced their secret ambitions to control the Internet of the unconnected two-thirds world it’ll be interesting to see who wins the race and if either drones or balloons become the default form factor for beaming down Internet service from the heavens. It should be noted that while Facebook’s drone project was still in early development, Google noted recently that its own balloon project was significantly closer to becoming commercially viable.

As both companies would have us know, global Internet connection is a good thing for all of us, bringing the world closer together in an ever-growing exchange of ideas, particularly if that connection by the erstwhile unconnected billions exclusively uses either Google or Facebook’s own closely controlled online ecosystems.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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