A Tale of Balloons, Drones, Lasers and Satellites by Google and Facebook: The Golden Age of Free Internet is About to Come

LoggaWiggler / Pixabay
The Internet giants – Facebook and Google are persistent to provide free Internet access to the next billion who are yet to come online. Two thirds of the world population still does not have access to the Internet.

Google envisions a world that has its rural and remote areas connected by high-altitude balloons placed in stratosphere. The speed is comparable to that of 3G. The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude to float to a wind layer with the desired speed and direction using the wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The project was unveiled in June of year 2013.

Test balloons were launched from New Zealand, but recent reports point out Google has expanded its Project Loon tests to the Nevada desert and, for the first time, into licensed 4G spectrum. Using LTE band frequencies minimizes heavy interference that can sometimes trouble 2.3GHz band.

Project Loon is not the only project that Google has for providing free Internet to the public. It is called Google Fiber – Google’s fiber-to-the-premises service in the United States. The service is currently running in Kansas city. Google Fiber offers a 5MBPS connection for free, along with paid subscription for premium services like TV channel subscriptions and 1GBPS speed.

Facebook, which is the largest social network in the world, is also sticking to its commitment to provide free Internet to the underprivileged population in rural areas. The social network has announced its ambitious plan to bring affordable, basic Internet access to every person in the world. It is called the Connectivity Lab, which will research and test experimental technology including drones, satellites and lasers to beam Internet.

Similar to Google, Facebook’s drone project, is not the only effort from the part of Facebook to give free access to the Internet for Facebook users. Facebook Zero, is a stripped down version of its mobile website launched in partnership with mobile operators that don’t charge fees when the service is used. But, unlike Google Fibre, Facebook Zero only provides free access to one website – Facebook.

Google is buying Titan Aerospace, a drone making company, for an unspecified amount. Titan Aerospace’s solar-powered aircraft can fly at 65,000 feet and act as atmospheric satellites. These drones are designed to stay in the air for years powered by solar cells. The drones can also take images of earth, something that will benefit the Google Maps team.
Google’s acquisition of Titan Aerospace is interesting because Facebook was reportedly in talks to by Titan Aerospace earlier this year. Facebook eventually ended up buying Ascenta, a U.K. based solar-powered unmanned aircraft making company, for $20 million.

Google said the Titan team will be working closely with its Project Loon. The team may also work with Makani, yet another Google project which aims to generate power from airborne wind turbines.

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