Networking

Google looks to boost last mile Fiber efforts with wireless broadband

Google recently filed with the FCC to begin testing wireless broadband in 24 US cities, which could help speed the development of Fiber infrastructure.

fibermap.jpg

The map of proposed locations for testing.

Image: Google

In telecommunications development, one of the biggest bottlenecks is often the "last mile," or the piece of a network required to deliver service to a consumer or business. In fiber optic deployments, like Google Fiber, that often involves laying additional cables to connect homes or offices to the network.

However, a recent FCC filing seems to suggest that Google could be going after an additional strategy to help advance its last mile efforts—wireless broadband. In the filing, Google formally requested authorization to conduct radio experiments using "experimental transmitters" in up to 20 US locations for two years.

Specifically, Google wants to develop technology using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) technologies in the 3.5GHz band. Particularly, testing will happen between the 3.4GHz and 3.8GHz bands, which will "ensure that Google has access to sufficient spectrum for experimentation while avoiding interference to incumbent operations," according to filing.

While the additional tools could be helpful for Google Fiber itself, Forrester principal analyst Dan Bieler said it could also be a push to increase pressure on traditional telecommunications providers, which would also benefit Google.

"The further mobile data charges fall and the more areas get decent mobile broadband coverage, the better for Google's core business," Bieler said.

There will be a certain number of transmitters set up in each given area. So far, the filing has listed the following cities as potential test beds: Atwater, CA; Mountain View, CA; Palo Alto, CA; San Bruno, CA; San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; Boulder, CO; Kansas City, KS; Omaha, NE; Raleigh, NC; Provo, UT; and Reston, VA.

SEE: Google's Fiber lottery: Predicting who's next and how Google picks winners

According to Google's filing, the experiments would "advance radio technologies associated with the new CBRS service and be conducted without harmful interference to other authorized users."

Many has noted that Google's latest filing comes on the heels of its acquisition of Webpass, a high-speed residential ISP. Webpass operates a fiber network and rooftop wireless network which could help with these experiments as well as speeding the development of Google Fiber, in general.

Adding a wireless option to Google Fiber could help speed deployments of the service in more crowded or densely populated areas, where running individual fiber lines would be costly and complicated. Additionally, use of the 3.5GHz band, which is far less crowded than the traditionally used 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies, could potentially alleviate bandwidth issues. However, it could also help Google in another area of innovation.

"Fixed wireless is hardly a new technology, but it has lots of potential to reach people in low density areas," Bieler said. "Google maintains that it is looking at fixed wireless for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). This could be interpreted as Google testing the waters for IoT connectivity in the context of its Brillo activities."

Of course, Google isn't the first to try to develop a faster wireless alternative. Companies like Starry have built alternative wireless technologies leveraging different radio bands, or options like millimeter wave band active phased array technology to improve connectivity.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A recent FCC filing suggests Google will test wireless broadband technologies in 24 US cities over the next two years, potentially advancing its efforts with Fiber.
  2. Wireless broadband could help with "last mile" development, making it easier to take advantage of existing fiber networks and get broadband into homes and businesses.
  3. A plethora of advances in wireless technology are being made by a host of vendors, include Google and Starry, paving the way for broader connectivity options in the future.

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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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