Apple has hired some of the biggest minds in the aerospace and communications fields to work on a “special project” that could yield a satellite-based network for the tech maker, according to a Friday report by Bloomberg, citing anonymous company figures.
Back in 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook squashed rumors the company would attempt to compete with wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon, saying, “Our expertise doesn’t extend to the network,” Fortune reported at the time.
“[G]enerally, the things Apple likes to do, are things we can do globally,” Cook said at an Amsterdam conference in May 2016. “We don’t have the network skill. We’ll do some things along the way with e-SIMs along the way, but in general, I like the things carriers do.”
Things appear to be changing, however, as Apple brings aboard at least a dozen experts in communications equipment to form a team headed by aerospace engineers Michael Trela and John Fenwick, who helped build the satellite imaging company Skybox Imaging before Google bought it out in 2014 and the duo came to Apple, Bloomberg reported, noting that this time around, the project reportedly has Cook’s blessing.
However, the outlet noted that it’s unclear if Apple intends to launch its own satellite constellation or piggyback off existing satellite infrastructure, or even if the project will ever come to fruition, as this is not the first time Apple has tried to get the initiative off the ground, both proverbially and literally.
Some other tech giants have also taken up ambitious internet constellation projects, with Amazon’s Project Kuiper seeking to launch roughly 3,200 satellites into low orbit and SpaceX beginning to set an astonishing 12,000 microsatellites in orbit for its Starlink project. Astronomers have complained, however, that with that many man-made objects in such a close orbit, the twin problems of space junk and observational interference become further amplified.