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 thoughts on “Google & Its 99 Broadband Balloons”
Om – what about launching own satellite like Murdoch and company is planning for cable TV.
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.
Cell on blimp. The idea will never die.
What can I say? They will make it work, and UFOs will hover over Texas & Nevada
Couldn’t they at least come up with a balloon that lasted longer than a day? Hell, I still have a balloon stuck in my ceiling fan from Christmas of 06.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
SpaceData’s past record makes one think that the “baloons concept” is a definite concept to bid for and Google has validated this fact as well.
Google,with no doubts will take advantage of this opportunity
I think their April Fool Joke leaked a little early.
but you really needed a graphic of some german chick in thigh-high boots with sunglasses & heavy red lipstick.
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.
Google may try to train birds instead of ballons, just a thought 🙂
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
How about putting up paid advertisements on Google Baloons?
That way Google will ‘earn’ money. Hope Pentagon wont mind shooting them with missiles once they are ‘out of control’
am I the only one who sees it as 100USD-per-24h printing machine, for farmers?
If Google put chocolates inside the balloons, somebody would bother to retrieve the electronics 🙂
I say we forget the balloons, we forget wireless, cable, and DSL and just go back to dial up. Life was so much simpler then