Google Inc. parent company Alphabet Inc. may be scaling back its efforts to provide Internet access the world over, at least via satellites.
A report Monday claimed the tech giant is attempting to offload Skybox, a satellite imaging company it acquired for $500 million in 2014. According to Bloomberg, Alphabet is close to announcing a deal that will see Skybox rival Planet Labs Inc. acquire the company in an all-equity deal, meaning that in place of paying to acquire the company Google instead will receive equity in Planet Labs as compensation.
The report claims that under the deal some employees from the division would move to Planet while others may get different positions at Google.
Skybox, renamed Terra Bella by Alphabet in 2016, produces small satellites that can capture multiple images of the earth below them, stitching them together to create high-resolution images. The technology can be used for commercial imagery, such as tracking cargo in ports and cars in parking lots to estimate sales, as well as for scientific uses such as tracking natural disasters and climate change.
Google said at the time of acquisition that the imagery captured by Skybox would be used to improve Google Maps and also as a satellite platform that could be harnessed to bring internet access to remote regions of the planet. The decision to sell the company to Planet is part of a broader push by the company to divest itself from unprofitable or specialized divisions to cut costs, particularly in what use to be known as the Google X division.
Alphabet itself is not entirely losing interest in providing global Internet access via satellite, given that it will gain a stake in Planet. Also, it has invested Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, a company that is planning to launch 4,425 satellites for global internet coverage.
No announcement has been made about the future of Google’s other internet projects including Project Loon, an attempt by Google to deliver internet access via high altitude balloons, and Project Skybender, which is attempting to deliver 5G wireless access via solar plane.