Deflating Rumors Of Google Offering Broadband-By-Balloon
from the head-in-the-clouds dept
Say what you want about the Wall Street Journal, but they’re generally pretty reliable on fact checking and not reporting baseless rumors. That’s why it’s strange to see a report in the Journal about Google’s supposed interest in buying up a balloon-based wireless data company. For many years, we’ve seen all different reports about attempts to offer wireless data services using various types of floating devices. Sometimes it’s via blimps, sometimes it’s via other systems using bizarre names like “HAPs” (for “high altitude platforms”), or “stratellite” or “aerostats”. Then there’s my favorite such plan: broadband delivered via retired Soviet spy planes. All of these plans had slight differences in terms of how they worked — but one similarity: they were basically all full of hot air.
While they tend to generate plenty of attention, they tend not to be particularly practical. The stratellite folks have been particularly egregious in issuing press releases that gullible reporters fall for every six months or so. The WSJ story about these balloons seems even more ridiculous in terms of practicality: the balloons only stay afloat for 24-hours, before they burst and the transmitter floats to the ground, where it needs to be recovered and then relaunched. Seriously. Yet, the WSJ says that Google may be interested in buying this company, offering nothing to back that up other than “people familiar with the matter.” This reads like a story placed by the company itself trying to drum up interest. I don’t doubt that folks from Google may have met with the company, but it seems like a stretch to think that they’re seriously interested in sending up balloons with data transmitters every 24-hours. Then again, who would have thought they’d send around people in cars taking photos of everything. It just seems that Google’s interest should have a bit more evidence behind it before taking it seriously.