Back in 2014, CivSource reported on an FCC filing Google made to get permission to experiment with millimeter wave technology. That technology uses the frequency spectrum from 30 GHz to 300 GHz, between microwave and infrared waves and has been floated as a means of providing 5G networks. Until the last decade or so, few devices could transmit millimeter waves but now the technology is more economical.
Now, it seems we know what the next phase of those experiments will be. According to a report in The Guardian, Google is testing wifi enabled drones in New Mexico that use millimeter waves. The drones are solar powered and could provide a means of getting network signals to areas without them.
Google has the drones as a result of its acquisition of Titan Aerospace in 2014. The company is testing the drones in airspace originally zoned for use by Virgin Galactic out in rural New Mexico. It’s unclear when this network might come to market, but it highlights a broader strategy within Google to find any means necessary to extend network access. Earlier efforts include work on TV White Space Broadband, as well as Project Loon which relies on high-powered balloons that transmit network signal as they float through the air.
All three of these projects have the same question at their core – how to get networks out to people who live on mountains, islands, or rural areas where it is hard to run fiber. These projects also work around fiber networks controlled by big telecom companies who aren’t interested in sharing. Google Fiber is another work around too, for the areas where it is easier to traditional networks. The business objective for Google is pretty clear – when you run an internet search and advertising business you need people to have the internet.
While most of these projects deal in the theoretical, it is someone refreshing to see a company doing research and development that might expand service instead of creating artificial scarcity or ghost networks. (We’re looking at you telcos.)