Judging by the number of people glued to devices outside the home or office, it's clear that the future of a connected world will favor the wireless. While cellular carriers currently offer 4G LTE speeds to help customers access photos, files, and kittens on YouTube, the next big step is just over the horizon. Called 5G, this mobile network will offer speeds 100X faster than 4G LTE. That new film you're eager to watch on a hyperloop between San Francisco and Los Angeles? No problem — thanks to 5G, it will download in less than a second.
So yes, it's fast and obviously "the future." But it's not just talk. Both London and Stockholm have announced plans to become 5G-ready cities within the next four years. But what about other areas of the world without tremendous resources to devote to new infrastructure? Enter Google's Project SkyBender, an offshoot of its Project Loon Internet-beaming balloons, that will leverage solar-powered drones to deliver 5G Internet.
The search giant is currently using Virgin Galactic's Gateway to Space terminal in New Mexico's Spaceport America to test technology that would use "millimetre wave transmissions" to transmit huge amounts of information in less than a second. The UK Guardian broke the news on the formerly secret project during a search of Google's public documents.
"The huge advantage of millimetre 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 website.
As for the drones, Google is using technology it acquired in 2014 from Titan Aerospace. The super lightweight solar aircraft reportedly use very little energy and can remain aloft in the stratosphere for extended periods of time, beaming down Internet to users below. Together with its Loon Balloons, the solar drones could be used to provide information infrastructure during times of natural disaster or during other critical situations.
“These are our access efforts to provide a backbone to the world," Google’s SVP of products, Sundar Pichai, declared last year. “Cell towers in the sky.”