Google Loon: Into Thin Air…

Posted in DISH, Globalstar, Operators, Regulatory, Spectrum at 10:43 am by timfarrar

Google’s Project Loon has been in the news again this week, with confirmation that Google will now look to partner with cellular operators to use their licensed spectrum rather than acquiring its own spectrum. Indeed yesterday the FCC issued an STA to permit continued testing in Nevada, using T-Mobile’s AWS-1 F-block LTE spectrum.

I’m particularly intrigued that Astro Teller of Google indicated that in late 2012/early 2013 the company spent “six months negotiating with ‘large companies’ to buy [a relatively thin piece of] harmonized spectrum,” but the plan was vetoed by Larry Page. Its pretty clear that the only “relatively thin” piece of “harmonized” (i.e. multi-country) spectrum out there is MSS spectrum and it was reported in November 2012 that Google had held discussions with DISH about their spectrum. Presumably similar discussions were held with other MSS operators like Globalstar as well (although at least as of late 2012 Google might not have considered Globalstar to be a “large” company on the scale of DISH or even Inmarsat).

However, the idea of partnering with individual wireless operators in different countries is completely incompatible with the concept of using balloons which can travel around the world in 22 days, because of course different spectrum would need to be used in each country. The obvious conclusion to draw is that Google will soon be moving on from balloons to its new Titan drones, which can stay in a defined area and be configured with a specific payload that would use the spectrum available there, just as Facebook predicted. Interestingly drones would operate at the same altitude of “up to 65000ft” and therefore might conceivably even be covered by Google’s current FCC STA. So how soon will we see this change happen?


  1. Jim.Wiesenberg said,

    May 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    There are balloons designed to fly in smaller geographic zones that could cover the US.

  2. guncontrol said,

    May 11, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    “[a relatively thin piece of] harmonized spectrum?”

    How much is this Spectrum Worth ?

    Comments of Oceus Networks: Globalstar TLPS

    existing WiFi enabled devices can be
    upgraded through software based modification.
    Thus, end users of the new proposed service
    have a wide selection of equipment such as smar
    tphones, tablets, and sensor devices they could
    use. This dramatically decreases an end-user’s
    costs and accelerates the time-to-market of this
    new service, helping users realize this new se
    rvice’s benefits more rapidly than with a
    completely greenfield service.
    Globalstar could provide a managed
    service with a global footprint offering unique features.
    Greater levels of security, control, and
    QoS are all features that a managed service could offer
    to specialized users that would be
    difficult to replicate using an unmanaged service

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