Google has been testing fifth-generation wireless technology in its unmanned and optionally piloted aircraft at a spaceport in New Mexico as part of a project called SkyBender, according to a Friday report from the Guardian.
It's all part of a sister project to Project Loon, a venture in which Google has been developing balloons to beam wireless Internet down to offline areas of the globe.
Both Project Loon and SkyBender are being incubated by the Google Access team, according to the report. Both projects are attempting to fill the skies with aircraft that beam down high-speed Internet to remote and underserved regions.
SkyBender has taken up temporary residence in a hangar at the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space terminal near the storied White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. Google has been paying Virgin Galactic around $1,000 per day to use the hangar and had paid $300,000 to build the infrastructure to support the 5G (fifth-generation wireless) tech.
A crash that came to light last May revealed that Google was testing solar-powered unmanned drones in New Mexico. It appears the drones, designed to stay aloft for up to five years, have progressed past that setback and Google is ready to work on their payload.
Google is experimenting with 5G, a technology that is still not standardized and a few years away from being ready for mainstream adoption.
The brand of 5G Google has been testing relies on millimeter waves. The search engine company has been using drones, acquired along with its acquisition of Titan Aerospace last year, and the optionally piloted Centaur aircraft to beam the millimeter waves to transceivers on the ground.
While millimeter waves don't travel as far as 4G phone signals, they can move much more data. Theoretically, millimeter waves can transmit data up to 40 times faster than 4G.
The industry is still working on the tech to meet the standards, proposed by the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) alliance, on what 5G looks and feels like. The NGMN hopes the industry will migrate to 5G technologies by 2020.
"NGMN envisages a 5G eco-system that is truly global, free of fragmentation and open for innovations," says the NGMN.