Report: Apple Hires Google Satellite Execs, Eyes Boeing Broadband Constellation

Credit: The Boeing Company

Bloomberg has an intriguing report about Apple, Boeing and te emerging battle to provide global broadband services via constellations of satellites.

The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.’s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about Apple’s private plans. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Google. Fenwick, Trela and Duffy didn’t respond to requests for comment….

In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It’s unclear if those talks will result in a deal….

Still, TMF’s Farrar said there’s no guarantee Apple will get involved in the Boeing project. The satellite industry is littered with bankruptcies and other failures. Satellite telephone company Iridium LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999, and Teledesic abandoned its “internet from the sky” plan more than a decade ago.

Indeed, Apple may have hired the Google executives for something other than satellite work. It’s already trying to use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera-and-sensor ladened minivans. And in 2015, it acquired Aether Industries LLC, which develops near-space technology such as high bandwidth radio transceivers and high-altitude balloons.

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