Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon has condemned Silicon Valley firms for "trivializing" networks with their plans to provide connectivity with drones or balloons.
Talking at the Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) Technology Symposium in New Jersey last week, Weldon said companies such as Facebook and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) "don't value the network as it should be valued. They are talking about networks as if they're trivial to build and based on balloons and drones.
"That's just ridiculous. That's what you build when you don't know how to build networks. You build toy networks."
A drone-based network was "an unstable, non-permanent network, and to say that's how you build networks of the future is just patronizing to people."
Facebook and Google have announced plans to deliver connectivity via solar-powered drones. Google's Project Loon is testing high-altitude balloons, while SpaceX's Elon Musk is exploring the possibility of a fleet of micro-satellites. (See Comms in Space! Musk Plans Micro-Satellites, Google Leases NASA's Moffett Field, Flyin' Facebook: Now Zuckerberg Eyes Drones?, Now Google Planning Drones-to-Go and Broadband: It's All Hot Air for Google.)
In fact, Google's Project Loon just got a helping hand from Telstra, which will provide basestations that will connect with 20 of the web giant's balloons during a trial in western Queensland.
Weldon is dismissive, though. "Networks get built through real innovation and an awful lot of clever architecting and optimization," all of which is needed because of "how difficult it is to provide mobility in the networks so you never drop a call," Weldon said.
"I think they treat it like a road that has potholes, and it's much more than that."
Weldon said there wasn't enough spectrum to support high-speed satellite broadband, citing the HughesNet service offering 3Mbit/s broadband across continental US.
"The reason why you build terrestrial networks is we're aiming for 100 Mbit/s or more per subscriber. There simply isn't enough spectrum in the satellite band to do that. The reason why you use wires up to the end is because you need basically the full spectrum of a piece of optical fiber to get all the bandwidth down to the end."
Weldon, who is also the Alcatel-Lucent CTO, added: "To use radio up in space… you'd need terahertz of spectrum that doesn't exist. Look at how precious that spectrum is for video relay. To think you can serve a global array of devices and people each wanting 100 Mbit/s from satellite infrastructure trivializes networks."
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading