Google to Expand Tests of Wireless Internet to 24 Locations

Google has been testing its wireless-transmission technology using the 3.5 GHz band in Kansas City. Now, a redacted Federal Communications Commission filing reveals that the company has plans to set up its experimental transmitters for 24 months at up to 24 locations in the U.S., including Provo, Utah; Omaha, Nebraska; and Boulder, Colorado. The filing shows that Google is asking for authorization to operate in the range of 3.4 to 3.8 GHz, relying on newly available spectrum.

According to Business Insider, the tests will be non-commercial and “all of the end-user devices … will be in the hands of Google employees, contractors, and ‘trusted testers’ selected by Google on a volunteer basis without payment.”

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Google’s original Fiber plan was to run high-bandwidth fiber-optic cable directly to the home, but that has proven to be slow and expensive. Earlier this summer, Google acquired Webpass, a company specializing in point-to-point wireless Internet, leading the Fiber team to shift its focus to “a new approach that will pair existing fiber with its own wireless technology.”

San Jose Mercury News reports that, “Google has told at least two Silicon Valley cities that it is putting plans to provide lightning-fast fiber Internet service on hold while the company explores a cheaper alternative.” Nearly three months ago, San Jose officials “approved a major construction plan to bring Google Fiber to the city,” and Mountain View and Palo Alto were also in discussions about Fiber.

Google obtained final permits in May for what was expected to be a three-year construction project that the company described as 60 percent underground and 40 percent aerial. Instead, shortly after Google began digging in San Jose, nearly 100 installers were offered a transfer to San Diego (on an unrelated project).

Google Fiber spokeswoman Veronica Navarrete says that, “company officials will continue talks with San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and its hometown of Mountain View about providing Internet service.” But The Diffusion Group analyst Joel Espelien says the ambitious underground project wasn’t a good fit for Google.

“Digging up streets is definitely not Google’s thing,” he said. “Wireless is definitely much more kind of up their alley.”

Related:
Google’s High-Speed Web Plans Hit Snags, The Wall Street Journal, 8/15/16