Google SkyBender and the Future of 5G Wireless

Google — or Alphabet if using the moniker of their parent company — continues to shake up how Internet service is delivered to your home. In the past, we’ve talked extensively about Google Fiber and even mentioned their nascent Project Fi wireless product. Now, the technology giant brings us Google SkyBender, a 5G wireless service delivered using solar-powered drones. Pretty cool.

Google SkyBender drone

With business reasons steeped less in profit than showing the big players in the market a potentially different path, Google SkyBender probably isn’t going to directly compete with Verizon, T-Mobile, et al. Expect the research to help bring 5G technology to the market a bit faster, though. Let’s take a closer look at Google’s latest foray into Internet services.

5G Wireless Using Solar-Powered Drones

There’s no denying the hipness factor of wireless Internet delivered by solar-powered drones — it sounds like something straight out of Blade Runner. It’s doubtful Ridley Scott is working next to Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google’s offices, but obviously the latter two employ some innovative minds. The stuff of science fiction is now becoming reality in the 21st Century.

Google is currently testing the SkyBender technology in New Mexico. The prototype drones — also designed and built by Google — sport a wingspan of 164 feet, and are covered by solar panels, giving them a futuristic sheen. The tests are being held at the space terminal originally slated for use by Virgin Galactic.

Millimeter wave technology is being used to transmit the wireless signals which theoretically offer 40 times the speed of current 4G. In essence, this would be around 500 Mbps, probably enough bandwidth for most household uses. While millimeter waves carry copious amounts of bandwidth, they suffer in range compared to current technology — this is probably the biggest problem Google needs to solve.

SkyBender is being developed by the same Google team who worked on Project Loon, a similar concept for global Internet service, but with high-altitude balloons in the role of the drones.

Worldwide Internet Delivered by a Fleet of Drones

Ultimately, Google envisions Internet delivered worldwide using their fleet of high-altitude drones. Whether they are the company providing service or their proof-of-concept research inspires other commercial entities to enter the fray remains to be seen.

SkyBender is definitely a research project more akin to Google’s self-driving cars than a consumer ready product like Fiber or Project Fi. Still, the company’s vision offers hope for seamless Internet access no matter your location all over the globe. We’ll be there to help check your speed as well!