It’s been five years since Google launched its Fiber broadband service, which has given selected US cities access to a super-fast alternative to what’s being offered by tech villains Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
And now, the CEO of Google Access (the company that oversees Fiber), Craig Barrett, has announced that they’re working on a plan to beam wireless broadband directly into homes across the US, telling re/code rather mysteriously, "[W]e are experimenting with a number of different wireless technologies."
So why is this such a big deal? Well, if Google can come up with the technology needed to wirelessly connect every home in America to the internet, it would mean they could bypass the expensive, years-long process of installing physical cables and fibres under streets and pavements.
It would also mean that customers would be freed from the shackles of much-despised tech giants such as Comcast, A&T, and Verizon.
"If Google can figure out how to make the technology work, that would reverberate across the broadband industry, since it would solve the expensive 'last mile' problem that broadband companies usually tackle by stringing a web of wires directly into homes," says Mark Bergen at re/code.
The details are pretty slim at the moment, as per usual when it comes to technology that could, quite literally, change an entire country - especially when you’ve got the likes of Facebook following hot on your heels. But Barrett explains that they’re figuring out how to connect existing fiber lines to wireless towers that could beam out a wireless network.
"We’re really transitioning from our earlier work, which was more of an experiment, to a real business," he said.
As Jon Brodkin points out at Ars Technica, wireless home internet is already being used in rural areas that lack fiber or cable, but what’s currently on offer isn’t exactly great in terms of speed.
If Google is going to offer something wireless that rivals the speeds of existing broadband services, it’s going to have to incorporate brand new technology into its secret scheme.
Fortunately, researchers around the world have been working on wireless networks that can do just that. One company, called Project Decibel, is expected to launch theirs in Boston later this year, as Brodkin reports:
"The wireless network will achieve gigabit speeds using high-frequency spectrum, including millimetre waves, the company said. Millimetre waves start at 30GHz and require line-of-sight connections, which might limit availability. Signals will be sent to a receiver that customers can place in a window."
And back in the lab, researchers at the University of Surrey 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) in England announced earlier this year that they’ve achieved 5G speeds of 1 Terabit per second (Tbps) over 100 metres in a lab setting, which is by far the fastest wireless connection to date.
"We have developed 10 more breakthrough technologies and one of them means we can exceed 1 Tbps wirelessly," Rahim Tafazolli, the director of 5GIC, told Dan Worth at UK technology news site V3. "This is the same capacity as fibre optics but we are doing it wirelessly."
We're now going to have to wait and see what Google comes up with, but it's a pretty good bet they're going to have something promising to show us in the coming years. And then it's goodbye, one tech giant with horrible customer service policies, and hello, other tech giant with hopefully better customer service polices. We'll take it!