Blog Post

Google & Its 99 Broadband Balloons

Google, according to The Wall Street Journal is thinking about teaming up with Space Data Corp., a company that sends balloons carrying small (micro) base stations about 20 miles up in the air for providing connectivity to truckers and oil companies. The balloons burst almost every 24 hours and need to be sent up again and again. The electronic payload is retrieved by farmers after it drifts back using a small parachute. The farmers do it because they get $100 per payload retrieved, WSJ says.

The Internet giant — which is now pushing into wireless services — has considered contracting with Space Data or even buying the firm, according to one person…..Google believes balloons like these could radically change the economics of offering cellphone and Internet services in out-of-the-way areas, according to people familiar with its thinking.

Given that there is only one anonymous source that is linked to Google, I remain highly skeptical of this plan. And if it is true, then it is yet another example of Google having more money than knowing what to spend it on, which in itself is a dangerous sign for its investors.

22 Responses to “Google & Its 99 Broadband Balloons”

  1. Om!

    It’s been a while we haven’t seen you on the GigaOM show, afterall, its in your name. We’ve missed your explanatory critics.

    Hope this message finds you in good heath.

    Joseph Z – Montreal

  2. crazynetechstuff

    What happens when planes start hitting these because Google has so many floating around? It seems like they would need to use a lot and there are a lot of planes out there, Eventually there would be a collision. It just doesn’t seem like it would work unless there was a way to put them up very high for a longer period of time and be able to control where they come down and when.

  3. Om: this bring a whole new meaning to the word in the industry of a broadband trial now we can say ‘trial balloon’.

    Balloons have been done before but Google would be better off taking over shuttle missions. Very plausible

  4. Considering that Google is trying to be green in many other ways, this is an insanely wasteful way of building a network. I’m sure not everything in the balloon can be recycled, and even if it can there’s a significant energy cost… Mesh networking with a very large number of solar powered mini-base stations might be a better model.

  5. Steve Fraser

    Google will just sell Adwords on these balloons. People will look up at the sky every night just to see which lucky company Google allowed to advertise on their balloons. Life will be good because Google is good.

    God Bless Google.

  6. With Googles new mobile platform Android and its compatibility with GSM the concept of using this type of network is excellent. Saves on overhead with satellites, capable of crushing the idea of cell phone towers and the cost for build-outs; Google would once again its ahead of the industries.

  7. Space Data’s conception and proven track record speaks for itself. It is working wonders for the military, medical field and the communication world.Keep up the good work Space Data.

  8. Who is to say the balloons are going to fall in a farmer’s field? Maybe they’ll end up in the ocean or in a tree or land in any sort of state where you can ship it back and reuse it?

    I can see why you’re skeptical of this deal, Om. The more I think about it, the more skeptical I am as well.

  9. I think that micro satellites will be a better bet. These are about the size of a Coke can, and can be put into GS orbit for about 1/16th the cost of typical data birds. There are several companies that have already flown prototypes, and the industry as a whole is waiting for the private launch revolution to catch up with the business case.

  10. Minnesota Angel

    Om, I participated in an investment presentation by Space Data a couple of years ago. This is actually a very practical, low cost method for providing a wireless network. It was a very impressive presentation.