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Google investing in 180 satellites to spread Web access

Google (GOOG) is looking to the skies to provide Internet access to underserved parts of the world, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Sources told the journal that the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant is investing more than $1 billion in a project that will see it employ a fleet of 180 satellites to bring internet service to parts of the world without access to wired connections. The effort will be led by Greg Wyler, who founded satellite-communications firm O3.

While the project is sure to help people in poorer parts of the world, this isn’t a philanthropic venture. The Journal notes that Google, along with other tech companies such as Facebook, need increased worldwide Internet use to provide them with new customers and higher revenue.

Not everyone is enthused with the plan. Satellite-communications consultant Roger Rusch told the Journal that the project could end being a “pipe dream” that costs Google up to $20 billion and ends on the scrapheap of tech industry history along with other abandoned corporate satellite projects.

For example, the Journal cites Iridium Satellite, which went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization soon after launching voice and data services in 1998.

Calls to Google to confirm the story were not immediately returned.