Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The factual scoop on the new Googlites (Google Satellites).

The past few days, talk has centered around the satellite that launched and successfully reached orbit Monday, and will provide the highest resolution space-based imagery of the earth in history,

GeoEye-1 in fact, is not owned by Google, but Google does have exclusive rights to the images for use in Google Earth and Google Maps.

The satellite is owned by publicly traded GeoEye (NASDAQ: GEOY) and provides data to the National Security Community, Strategic Partners, Resellers, and commercial companies. The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was said to have been a participant in the funding of this latest venture (and Google's Founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin were on hand for the launch).

Be sure and check-out the website above which now includes footage of the launch and more.

More Googlites?

Google needs more than pictures to stay ahead of the curve. Last year, reports surfaced that Google was buying up 'dark fiber', essentially unused fiber left behind by past cable and other ventures. Then there were confirmed investments in undersea cabling, and, as recently as this week, there were news stories about Google's looking into sea-based server facilities (It's a lot cooler down there! :).

Now comes a confirmed investment in a Channel Islands based company, O3b Networks, who are building a network of 16 low-earth orbiting data satellites.

Privately-held 03b Networks has 3 primary investors. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Liberty Global (NASDAQ: LBTYA), and HSBC Principle Investments (NYSE: HBC).

For those who may be wondering, Liberty Global is controlled by billionaire investor John Malone who's Liberty Media was recently in the news for it's acquisition of DirecTv (from News Corp) among other well-known projects including QVC and many other media and internet holdings. Liberty Global provides cable, telephone and Internet services to 16 million customers worldwide.

03b was founded by entrepreneur Greg Wyler with the mission of "making the Internet accessable and afforable to billions of people in emerging and developing markets". 3G deployment pioneer John W. Dick serves as Chairman of the company.

"The O3b Networks system will offer fiber performance over satellite, at prices comparable to fiber in developed regions. By allowing direct connection to core networks and 3G Cellular/WiMAX towers, the O3b Networks system will completely change the economics of telecommunications infrastructure in the world’s fastest-growing markets for communications services."

The contract for 16 low-earth orbit satellites was let to Thales Alenia Space, the French aerospace group and will sport 2300 transponder equivalents, and could be in operation as early as 2010.

The three partners are currently investing 20 million dollars (US) each and have reserved the right to invest additional funds as well as bring in additional partners. Allen and Company, the boutique investment bank in New York (no relation to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) has contributed a smaller stake.

The anticipated total cost of this initial project is 750 million dollars (US).

You have to wonder what Bill Gates, Paul Allen and others are thinking right now. Remember Teledesic?

Update (Sept 11 AM): Google has posted additional information to the Google Public Policy blog.