Google’s reported plans to roll out a fleet of satellites likely won’t make its efforts with drones or balloons obsolete. Tim Farrar, a consultant who worked for a company that tried to offer satellite-based internet access in the 1990s before its $9 billion project was halted, told the WSJ that the technologies complemented each other, and that drones and satellites could combine to achieve Google’s aim of offering signal in all corners of the world.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, a Google spokesperson suggested the company’s efforts were altruistic. “Internet connectivity significantly improves people’s lives. Yet two thirds of the world have no access at all.” But there’s also a financial reason to offer these two thirds a reliable way to get online. If at least one of the methods — balloon, drone, or satellite — can successfully offer high-speed internet to underserved parts of the world, then Google will also be in a position to offer its products and services to vast new markets.
One thing to keep in mind with Google’s (and Facebook’s) seemingly altruistic bent is that Google isn’t doing this to be nice. These ecosystem giants want everyone online because everyone on the planet is a potential product they can sell to advertisers. The CSR line may be that they want everyone’s lives to be improved, but the real line is that they are harvesting eye balls they can sell to advertisers. You are a product, not a customer.
For all that Google and Facebook do, their biggest revenue source is advertising. Think of this as a billion dollar investment in getting more people to look at more ads in different markets around the world. This is a play on Glocal advertising dominance.
Google has learned a lot since their investment in O3b Networks and looks like they are taking that knowledge a step further.