Big Tech firms still have big ambitions

Google's parent company, Alphabet, has already made one unsuccessful bid to get more people connected in rural and remote areas. That was Project Loon, an ambitious attempt to provide Internet access using a series of high-altitude balloons.

| Jonathan Watson

Loon proved too expensive so the company is now pursuing another option: providing Internet access using beams of light. This project, known as Taara, is part of X, Alphabet’s innovation lab. Also nicknamed the “Moonshot Factory,” it is a sister company of Google.

According to X, “radio spectrum alone cannot support the world’s growing data demand. What if we leapfrogged to the optical spectrum, and unlocked 30 times more data capacity?”

This week it said it was working with Bharti Airtel in India to move towards large-scale deployment of the technology. Google bought a small stake in Bharti Airtel in 2022.

Amazon, another “Big Tech” firm, has chosen a satellite route to bring the Internet to underserved areas. The company plans to begin mass production of its Kuiper satellites by the end of 2023, with the launch of its first satellites in 2024

This commitment to extending Internet access means that Big Tech firms like Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft inevitably have a strong interest in spectrum policy.

Until recently, their focus was on boosting connectivity using unlicensed spectrum, but the past couple of years have seen a move into cloud-based 5G private networks, the Internet of Things, satellite, low-power radar and backhaul.

As our updated profiles show, spectrum sharing and unlicensed spectrum are high on their agendas.

Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft all support the unlicensed use of 6 GHz spectrum across the entire band (5925—7125 MHz). That means that on WRC-23 Agenda Item 1.2, none of them supports any changes to the band either regionally or globally.

All four companies also have an interest in unlicensed spectrum in the 60 GHz band.

To find out more, check out our 2023 Big Tech profiles—now available to Spectrum Research Service subscribers. An overview of the key priorities of all the companies can be found here. The individual profiles can be accessed here.


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