Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Project Loon airborne Internet project will rely on telecom operators' licensed spectrum to deliver wireless Internet service to rural and remote areas, said Astro Teller, "captain of moonshots" at the secretive Google X labs.
Teller made the statement onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY conference in New York, telling the audience that Google initially hoped to acquire spectrum that was harmonized across countries.
Prior to the project's launch, the Google X team worked for some six months to cut spectrum acquisition deals with unnamed "large companies" so it could use harmonized spectrum to deliver signals from its Loon balloon network in the stratosphere down to customers on the ground below.
"We thought this was absolutely critical to the project and we wanted to get it done before we launched," Teller said in remarks reported by The Verge.
But CEO Larry Page told the team to come up with something better than buying "a relatively thin piece of harmonized spectrum."
Instead, Google decided to employ spectrum that is already licensed to telcos and Internet service providers (ISPs) in individual countries. Under that model, operators can lease Loon balloons as they pass overhead and deliver Internet service over their licensed spectrum, which generally includes large swaths of bandwidth.
In addition, the model frees Google from needing to license any spectrum and will also make operators into Loon partners as they and Google extend Internet connectivity to underserved and unserved areas.
Last month, PC World reported that Google has started testing Project Loon in the Nevada desert using paired radio spectrum that is commonly used for LTE transmissions. This likely reflects the company's intent to use spectrum that is licensed to operators.
In addition to Project Loon, Google X projects include self-driving, glucose-sensing contact lenses, Google Glass and Flux, a collaborative-design software for building design that was recently spun off.
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