The Google Fiber unit of Alphabet could be looking at going wireless, as the cost and time associated with installing underground fiber optic cables for the high-speed broadband internet service is slowing down the business.
Google Fiber could be looking at a significant change of direction, as it steps back to rethink its rollout plans in several metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. Projects in San Jose, California and Portland, Oregon have been suspended.
According to sources familiar with the plans of the company, the initial rollouts of Google Fiber turned out to be more expensive and time-consuming than expected. The unit is now investigating alternative technologies to build out its high-speed broadband internet service.
One of the sources said that, for most cases, Google Fiber is looking to use wireless technology to connect homes to the service as opposed to underground fiber optic cables. In other cases, Google would be looking to lease existing fiber networks or ask the cities or power companies to build out the networks themselves.
Google Fiber, which looks to provide customers with up to 100 times the speed of typical broadband internet connections, is running into trouble with the so-called last mile, which is where the network is brought directly into the homes and buildings of the service's clients. Getting through this last mile usually involves tearing up the streets and digging up nearby sidewalks, which is a huge burden in the construction of the network. As such, the exploration on looking for a wireless solution to go over the last mile has started.
Google Fiber has only reached six metropolitan areas after four years, which illustrates the expense and difficulty of building out fiber optic networks requiring cables stretching thousands of miles. Google Fiber has started construction in five metropolitan areas and has announced plans to expand into another dozen cities within the next few years, and these dozen cities will likely be the testing grounds for the service's usage of wireless technology.
Google Fiber's acquisition of Webpass could have been considered a prelude to the push into wireless by the service. Webpass beams internet connections from a fiber-connected antenna to other antennas that are mounted on buildings, which is something that Google Fiber could be looking to do in the future.
Google will likely be building out fiber optic cable networks to a neighborhood and then use wireless technology such as the one developed by Webpass for the distribution of the service to customers.