Google wants to beam superfast 5G internet from solar-powered drones

How do you deliver superfast internet to areas with patchy coverage? If you’re Google you use balloons – or drones, of course. According to a report from The Guardian, the search giant and R&D powerhouse testing solar-powered drones to deliver millimetre wave 5G internet – that’s 40 times faster than the 4G in your phone.

Google wants to beam superfast 5G internet from solar-powered drones

Named “Skybender”, the initiative is taking place in Spaceport America in New Mexico, using technology acquired from Google’s purchase of Titan Aerospace, just less than two years ago. Thanks to a 165ft (50-metre) wingspan, Titan Aerospace’s original drones could fly at an altitude of 65,000 feet and can remain airborne for up to five years.

Drones, balloons and the 5G issue

If the idea of drones delivering internet sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Facebook is already testing its own “laser-beaming internet drones”, while Google’s own Project Loon delivers internet using balloons rather than drones.

So just how viable is Google’s idea? While the search giant’s plan to deliver internet using drones is certainly doable, its use of 5G is a bit harder to be optimistic about right now. Why? Because of range.

To get around the problems of slow, congested 4G, Google is using the less-cluttered 28GHz frequency to deliver 5G. Although that means it provides 40 times the speed of 4G, it also only lasts for a tenth of the distance. If Google wants to make Project Skybender a reality, it will need to work out how to increase the range of its fast-but-fragile 5G signals.

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