Slow data rates from balloons launched by dairy farmers? Good luck with that.
Google is considering teaming up with Space Data Corporation on a project that would have them sending balloons 20 miles into the stratosphere
in order to provide wireless broadband and phone service to the connectivity deprived. Space Data Corp
. already launches 10 balloons a day across the Southern U.S., providing specialized telecom services to truckers and oil companies. Their technology is also being used by the U.S. Air Force.
Google is considering either contracting with the firm or buying the company
outright, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal
. Since Space data consistently needs to launch new balloons (one of which they claim covers as many as 40 cell towers), they hire mechanics at small Southern airports, and pay dairy farmers $50 per launch.
Sharon Hodges, a 60-year-old cattle-and-wheat farmer in Piedmont, Okla., and part-time balloon launcher, says she doesn't know much about technology but liked the extra pocket money. Every day just before sunset, she unfolds a deflated balloon, attaches it to a hydrogen tank and inflates it to about 6 feet in diameter. Then she hitches the electronic payload to the balloon, walks it through the 16-foot-tall double doors of her barn, and lets go of it.
The hydrogen-filled balloons rise at 1,000 feet a minute and hit 65,000 to 100,000 feet in under two hours. When the balloons are no longer useful, the transceiver parachutes to earth and Space Corp. pays $100 for each one recovered. Additional technical specifics are available here
, which suggest we're not talking about very impressive bandwidth -- at least in its current form.
Dairy farmers launching sluggish telecom equipment via balloons packed with hydrogen on a mass scale, with random people recovering fallen equipment as latex bits cover the landscape? What could go wrong? Hey, keep in mind that Google has also invested into that eternally dysfunctional broadband technology known as broadband over powerline
. Somebody might want to stick to ads and search lest that stock price deflates and falls to earth.