Google Testing 5G Gigabit Wireless Internet Beamed From a Solar Powered Drone in New Mexico
Forget "loony" weather balloons; Google is now testing the prospect of delivering high-speed gigabit Internet via solar-powered drones, if a recent report is accurate.
Called "Project SkyBender," according to The Guardian's initial report, the Mountain View tech giant is reportedly testing solar-powered drones in the New Mexico desert that beam "5G" Internet at speeds between 1Gbps to 10Gbps from the air.
Google has rented out 15,000 square feet of hanger space in the Gateway to Space terminal in an area of the state near the New Mexico town of "Truth or Consequences," believe it or not. The Guardian states it put together the details of Google's secretive codenamed project from documents obtained through public records laws.
Much like the recently-vaunted startup Starry, Google is testing the efficacy of beaming high speed Internet signals using the experimental "millimeter-wave radio" band. Unlike traditional cellular data signals like 3G or LTE, millimeter wave signals are broadcast in the much higher frequency spectrum measured in GHz; Google's using a 28GHz broadcast range, according to the report.
The advantage of transmitting data signals at the millimeter wave spectrum is speed. Both Starry and Google are reportedly experimenting with delivering Internet connectivity wirelessly at speeds traditionally found in fiber optic wired connections, above 1Gbps (or tens of times faster than the Internet speeds of the average wired broadband connection).
The disadvantage of using millimeter wave spectrum is that connections are a lot more fragile than traditional cellular data connections. Transmissions in the GHz spectrum tend to fade quickly in a relatively short range of a mile or so. Other usually unnoticeable, slight obstacles for traditional wireless connections, such as windows or fluctuating atmospheric conditions, can completely hamper millimeter wave transmissions.
The transmissions are being tested in New Mexico from an "optionally piloted" aircraft called the Centaur, according to documents unearthed by The Guardian. On the ground, Google has built two communications installations located near the Spaceport America Operations Center and the Vertical Launch Area, along with numerous reception sites located around the Spaceport and a repeater tower.
Google has permission from the FCC to continue experimenting with GHz spectrum in New Mexico until July of this year, and will continue to pay approximately $1000 per day from Virgin Galactic, which has put its testing on hold since the 2014 crash of its experimental SpaceShipTwo, to rent out the company's hanger in Spaceport America.
The company is still in testing for its "Project Loon," which involves beaming more conventional wireless Internet signals from high altitude weather balloons, also at the same facility.
Google isn't the only company testing Internet delivery via solar powered drone. As Latin Post reported previously Google bought drone maker Titan Aerospace virtually out from underneath Facebook two years ago, which had expressed interest in an acquisition for its own project spreading Internet across the world, Internet.org.
Facebook later announced it was in the early research phases for its own Internet-beaming solar powered drone, codenamed Aquila, which it then tested for the first time in March of last year.
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