How Google’s SkyBender drones will deliver Internet access to remote areas

The company is quietly conducting tests of the technology, which could potentially transmit large amounts of data at speeds up to 40 times faster than currently 4G LTE networks, at a vast site in New Mexico developed for private spaceflight.

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Google is quietly testing whether solar-powered drones can deliver high-speed Internet service from the air at a much faster rate than traditional cell towers.  The project, codenamed SkyBender, uses transceivers that can send and receive signals using high-frequency millimeter wave radio transmissions, which can potentially transmit gigabits of data per second, up to 40 times faster than 4G LTE cell networks, the current mobile standard. The high-frequency transmissions have often been proposed as part of a faster 5G standard.  Because millimeter wave technology uses higher frequencies, it has the potential to carry more data and operate in a less crowded part of the radio wave spectrum, making data-hungry services, such as streaming video sites, available to a wider group of users.  

But there are some drawbacks to the technology behind SkyBender — high-frequency transmissions have a short wavelength, meaning they can’t travel as far and can be blocked by obstacles such as buildings, walls, and windows – and even rain and moisture in the air.  The market for lower frequencies that aren’t already being used — so-called “beachfront property,” which can travel longer distances and through buildings — is often highly competitive. An auction held by the Federal Communications Commission last year netted $45 billion from wireless carriers.  “The huge advantage of millimeter wave is access to new spectrum because the existing cellphone spectrum is overcrowded. It’s packed and there’s nowhere else to go,” Jacques Rudell, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the Guardian.  But in order to get millimeter waves to work from a drone, Professor Rudell says, Google must experiment with using highly-focused transmissions from what’s known as a phased array. That’s a difficult task that also burns a lot of power, Rudell told the paper.

See on Scoop.itInternet of Things – Technology focus


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