Networking

Google brings Webpass to 6 metros, proves Fiber might not be dying after all

Google recently announced that it was supporting wireless internet through Webpass in six metro areas, possibly signaling a shift in the company's gigabit business strategy.

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Image: iStockphoto/cofotoisme

Google has taken another formal step to fold Webpass into its overall plans for Google Fiber, announcing Webpass eligibility for customers in the following six metro areas: Chicago, Boston, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, and Oakland.

Webpass is a wireless ISP that operates its own Ethernet network utilizing both fiber optics and point-to-point wireless. In the summer of 2016, Google entered into an agreement with Webpass to acquire the company, and formally made it a part of Google Fiber last October.

According to a Google blog post, customers in the listed metro areas "may be eligible to use Webpass if their building has at least 10 units, and is wired with Ethernet cabling." The post goes on to note that copper Ethernet wiring is an affordable alternative to coaxial cable or fiber to achieve gigabit speeds.

SEE: Why Google Fiber failed: 5 reasons

It's interesting to note that all of these cities are areas that Webpass was already operating in, and many of them are locations of company offices. So, in a sense, this is a rebranding of sorts in making Webpass more available to Google customers.

It's also interesting to see that Google's Fiber map still lists "upcoming" and "potential" Fiber cities, and the company just opened a new Fiber Space in Raleigh, North Carolina. The real question that the Webpass announcement poses is whether or not Google will bring Webpass to some of its current or future Fiber cities.

Using wireless technologies to boost its last-mile efforts is nothing new for Google Fiber as, in addition to the Webpass acquisition, the company also filed with the FCC to begin testing wireless broadband with experimental transmitters. Being that wireless deployments could be cheaper than physically laying fiber in some instances, it could mean that Google Fiber might be switching its strategy away from fiber to the home (FTTH), in exchange for a wireless-first approach. If so, this could be evidence that Google Fiber isn't actually failing, as I previously wrote.

If Google does indeed switch its approach, it will be facing increased competition not only from established providers, but also from Silicon Valley giants. In late 2016, AT&T began looking for a trial location for its Project AirGig, aiming to provide multi-gigabit wireless internet to urban regions. Also in late 2016, Elon Musk's SpaceX detailed a plot to launch thousands of satellites to build out a global broadband service.

Additionally, Webpass doesn't offer just gigabit service. The provider offers speeds as low as 10 Mbps, geared toward multi-tenant buildings. So, in the end, this could also just be as simple as Google wanting to offer more options to its customers in terms of speed and delivery.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Google Fiber recently announced formal support for wireless provider Webpass in six major metro areas in the US, which were already supported by Webpass.
  2. The announcement could signal a shift in Google Fiber's strategy to pursue a wireless-first approach, but it is unclear if Webpass will be coming to future Fiber cities.
  3. AT&T and SpaceX have both begun plans to provide their own wireless, high-speed internet, increasing competition for Google Fiber.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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