It is too early for those of us outside Google to figure out what it means that Google Fiber has halted or suspended its plans to build Google Fiber networks in San Jose, Calif., Palo Alto, Calif. and Mountain View, Calif.
The stated reason for the pause is to allow Google Fiber to explore whether fixed wireless is a better option for building those networks. Construction speed and cost as well as lower overall capital investment are potentially major advantages.
Google apparently believes its gigabit speed offer can be offered using fixed wireless, instead of optical fiber.
Some skeptics might argue that the whole purpose of Google Fiber was to goad other competitors into upgrading to gigabit speeds--something that is happening nationally--and never to become a major ISP in its own right.
Whatever the outcome, it now is becoming clearer that physical media choices are increasing, where it comes to gigabit networks. In addition to fiber to the home, cable operators are doing so with their hybrid fiber coax networks, and it now appears fixed wireless and mobile networks (5G) will be able to do so, as well.
To an astounding degree, that is a major change in platform capabilities and potential business models. Until recently, it was generally assumed that only fiber to the home could support commercial and widespread gigabit speeds.
That will be less the case in the coming years, as 5G networks are deployed--in fixed and mobile variants--and as much as 29 GHz of new communications spectrum, including at least 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum is released for use in the U.S. market.
AT&T says it has achieved speeds up to 14 Gbps using millimeter wave radio in what appears to be a point-to-point application, and speeds up to 5 Gbps to two users, in what appears to be point-to-multipoint application.
That test appears to have used 15-GHz frequencies. AT&T says it now will test propagation at 28 GHz.
Separately, Google has asked the Federal Communications Commission for authorization to conduct radio experiments in the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, at 24 U.S. locations.
That is important for several reasons. First, the CBRS is the first U.S. frequency band to feature shared spectrum access: commercial users and licensed government users will share access to bandwidth.
Second, CBRS will be a major new way for Google--and other ISPs--to provide Internet access services, beyond Google Fiber.
Third, the move suggests the coming important role of fixed wireless in the U.S. ISP business.
Google plans to deploy initially in Atwater, Calif., Mountain View, Calif., Palo Alto, Calif., San Bruno, Calif., San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., Boulder, Colo., Kansas City, Kan., Omaha, Neb., Raleigh, N.C., Provo, Utah, and Reston, Va.
Those locations skew heavily to major urban areas near Google’s headquarters, some sites where Google Fiber already operates, but also some new smaller-market locations.
The initial test locations also indicate Google wants to test interference issues in areas where licensed users are active (coastal regions are issue for some licensees).
Google apparently also is looking at locations where it already operates Google Fiber, potentially adding a new access technology option to the current fiber-to-home approach.
Google says “operations vary from 7 km to 40 km from the geographic center point of each test area.” That implies potential testing of signal propagation and interference testing ranging from four miles to nearly 25 miles.
The test locations are not commercial launch sites, Google says.