According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is seriously considering contracting or buying balloon-launched temporary cellular network specialist Space Data Corp to provide and manage internet connectivity in areas not previously served by existing telcos. The system uses six-pound hydrogen-filled balloons to take a payload of cellular transceivers between 65,000 and 100,000 feet into the atmosphere; each device can provide network coverage to an area that would require 40 land-sited cellphone towers.
Check out the WSJ video about the technology after the cut
Each balloon only lasts 24hrs, at which point Space Data Corp send a signal to separate the transceiver from the inflatable; the former parachutes to earth, with GPS leading trackers to reclaim it (and get paid $100 for each they bring in), while the latter climbs higher through the atmosphere until the low pressures shred the latex. Each reusable transceiver costs $1,500 while the balloons themselves are a mere $50; the company pays cow farmers $50 to launch them in the early hours of each morning.
Both Google and Space Data Corp declined to comment on the rumors.