Google unveils a secret telecommunications project called Aalyria

Inside Google, a team of techies has been working behind the scenes on software for high-speed communications networks that extend from land to space.

Codenamed “Minkowski” within Google, the secret project is being unveiled to the public on Monday as a new spinout called Aalyria.

Aalyria’s light laser technology, which it calls Tightbeam, ensures, the startup says, that data remains “intact through the atmosphere, weather conditions and provides communication where no supporting infrastructure exists.” The company also claims to have laser communications technology “on an exponentially greater scale and speed than anything that exists today.” The Aalyria software platform has been used in many of Google’s aerospace network projects.

Google declined to provide details about Aalyria, such as how long the company has been working on the technology and how many of its employees will join the startup. 

For its part, Aalyria says its mission is to operate “hyper fast, ultra-secure, and highly complex communications networks that span land, sea, air, near space, and deep space.”

Aalyria claims that their project will leverage a combination of two technologies formerly developed at Alphabet: Atmospheric laser communications technology and a software platform for orchestrating networks that will span across planetary space.

Aalyria’s main focus will be to use intelligent network orchestration and atmospheric free-space optics to expand complex communication networks on Earth and other places lacking connectivity infrastructure.

“We can orchestrate high-speed urban meshes and global unified network operations, and we can help connect the next three billion people,” said Chris Taylor, CEO of Aalyria.

Aalyria (pronounced ah-Leer-eeh-ah) said it has an $8.7 million commercial contract with the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit. The company will be led by CEO Chris Taylor, a national security expert who has led other companies that have worked with the government. Taylor’s LinkedIn profile says he’s the CEO of a company in stealth mode that he founded in November.

Alphabet itself has been pursuing more lucrative government contracts and earlier this year announced “Google Public Sector,” a new subsidiary geared at U.S. government partnerships primarily through Google Cloud.

The two main technologies driving the Aalyria project

Aalyria said it would leverage two main technologies, Spacetime and Tightbeam, which they developed over the years to achieve its vision of a world and space connected in one communication network.

Spacetime technology is software for orchestrating ground stations, satellites, urban meshes and aircraft networks. The software is expected to facilitate communication networks at any altitude level and provides support to all bands of radio frequency and optical wavelengths. According to Aalyria, the software will integrate with hybrid space, legacy, 5G NTN and FutureG network architectures.

Tightbeam, on the other hand, is an atmospheric laser communication technology. Aalyria claims that it’s the most advanced light-free space optics technology in the world. The start-up further claims that its Tightbeam technology will be compared to no known technology in terms of speed and coverage of communication networks in areas where such was non-existent. Tightbeam is expected to revamp WiFi connections on planes and ships, cellular connectivity and satellite communications.

“These technologies will set the new standard for intelligently orchestrating, managing and extending mesh networks across all domains … to create connectivity everywhere — no matter the protocol,” Taylor said.

What does this mean for the future of advanced communication networks?

The advanced communication networks have witnessed many decades of evolution with the goal of delivering network communication access across land, air, sea and deep space. Moreover, with the rising interest in having ultra-speed WiFi connections on air, low Earth and space, some companies have made huge investments in advancing communication networks.

Earlier this year, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched 52 Starlink satellites, promising to deliver a high-speed internet connection to as many people as possible. Apart from SpaceX, other companies such as Viasat and HughesNet are all making inroads into providing advanced communication networks.

With Elon Musk committing a whopping $30 billion to StarLink in 2021, it is expected that more investments in the space telecommunication industry will happen in the future. Aalyria already gained governmental support from an initial $8 million contract. However, whether more investment will come their way remains to be seen.

Now that Aalyria has joined the host of companies providing internet access to land, sea and other planetary spaces, we might be looking at a future where we do not have to rely on slow WiFi on planes, sluggish internet connections in remote areas or underground.