Google’s news about its ambitious plans to build wireless networks in “emerging markets” like Africa and Asia isn’t nearly as interesting as how the company might ultimately end up deploying Wi-Fi to these areas – not via conventional cable-stringing but, rather, by balloons.
While Google appears to be planning a fleet of CPUs and Android phones to connect its wireless networks together – over airwaves commonly used for television broadcasts, reports the Wall Street Journal – the company is also allegedly planning a few more esoteric methods for getting wireless access up-and-running in areas previously underserved.
Among these methods includes satellite Internet and the aforementioned “balloons” plan, which would use “high-altitude platforms” to blast a wireless signal across an area spanning hundreds of square miles.
In other words, these aren’t just conventional Wi-Fi routers strapped to weather balloons. They would also use frequencies different than those used for television broadcasts – an area that the company would need to get a governmental blessing from in order to fully deploy, given the regulations involved.
As for why Google’s planning to invest such a great deal of hardware and engineering think into underdeveloped areas, the Wall Street Journal postulates that Google’s simply interested in connecting more users into the Googlesphere of apps and devices. Doing so, in turn, helps add to Google’s considerable success in Web advertising. With more than half the globe not even connected to the Web, even gaining a small sliver in this ignored population would give Google a healthy new base to draw from – a critical note, given that the company pulls most of its annual revenue from its advertising.
The move would also allow Google to get to this new population first before other carriers descend en masse. With numerous cable companies and wireless carriers in the U.S. and Europe crying foul that Google benefits from running “over the top” apps and services their networks with little benefit to the carriers themselves, Google’s first-to-market wireless service in these underdeveloped areas would allow the company to get out ahead of its “competition” and circumvent their ability to prevent Google from effectively serving new audiences.
Google’s ambitions are comparable to its launch of “Free Zone” in fall of 2012. This service allows users in the Philippines, Indonesia, and South Africa to use Google services and click through to search results without incurring any data charges on their phones. If users continue to surf the Web beyond the results of their searches, however, data costs apply.