Google vs Facebook: Drones vs Balloons

facebook_vs_google_robots.topNews in the last few days that Facebook is taking on Google over Internet access for everyone. This is part of the initiative. “Every one of us. Everywhere. Connected.” That means drones versus balloons.

Now, the reason that both Google and Facebook want to provide internet access to everyone is to capture that first page of the internet that people view. Currently that honor belongs to Google, though Facebook must be creeping up on that title given that most people look at Facebook first thing in the morning to see what everyone has been up too over night.

So here are the two competing technologies.

Google Loon is a system whereby thousands of balloons are launched into the stratosphere, each providing a small wireless footprint on the earth that we can connect too. They are controlled by raising and lowering their altitude so that they can provide ongoing global coverage. It was first tested in Canterbury, New Zealand.

Facebook’s answer to Internet for everyone is multi-faceted and interesting.

In urban environments, Facebook is researching wireless mesh networking. We don’t know much about this, other than the likely principle being that each user becomes a wireless hotspot that others can connect to creating a living, moving, wireless mesh.

In low density areas, the Facebook answer is satellite. Nothing new there.

In medium density the answer is drones.

drones operating at 65,000 feet are ideal. At this altitude, a drone can broadcast a powerful signal that covers a city-sized area of territory with a medium population density. This is also close to the unregulated airspace, and a layer in the atmosphere that has very stable weather conditions and low wind speeds. This means an aircraft can easily cruise and conserve power, while generating power through its solar panels during the day to store in its batteries for overnight use.

With the efficiency and endurance of high altitude drones. it’s even possible that aircraft could remain aloft for months or years. This means drones have more endurance than balloons, while also being able to have their location precisely controlled. And unlike satellites, drones won’t burn up in the atmosphere when their mission is complete. Instead, they can be easily returned to Earth for for maintenance and redeployment.” 

The battle is on for Internet access and the megacorps are making their first plays in what will be a war that lasts for years. The implications for local telcos are obvious and they will need to adapt rapidly to compete with a service that is literally being beamed from right about their heads. With wireless mesh, you no longer need a line of sight to the sky either, as long as some people do, the service is connectable.

It’s going to get busy up there.




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