A Different Take on Google Broadband

4:50 PM -- Much of the reaction to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s broadband plans has focused on the pressure the Internet giant is putting on broadband service providers, such as cable companies and telcos, by promising to build fiber-to-the-home networks that are faster than anything in the market today. (See Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH.)

By also promising to open those networks to any service provider, Google is seen as pressuring regulators and service providers alike to move away from the current "I built this network and you can't use it" approach to broadband.

Some within the telecom industry have adopted a "bring it on" attitude to watching Google try to build FTTH networks, knowing the expense, knowing the complexity, and eager for Google to stumble over a reality with which the telecom industry has been struggling.

I think all of these reactions miss the point. It seems to me that what Google is trying to do is build a real-world lab for the next generation of Internet applications, which it expects to offer.

And it also occurs to me that Google doesn't really have to build much of anything -- there are plenty of FTTH networks already built or in the works that Google could easily use as its field lab. Municipalities like Provo, Utah, and Burlington, Vt., have expensive FTTH networks built or under construction that come quickly to mind, and there are probably many more.

Giving credit where it's due, Mike Day, CTO of ADC (Nasdaq: ADCT), has influenced my opinion on both counts.

Day's background is as a network architect, and before taking his current job in 2001, he worked for Ameritech, Telecom New Zealand Ltd. (NYSE: NZT; New Zealand: TEL), and AT&T's Bell Labs in that capacity.

With that perspective, Day believes, as he told me in a recent interview, that Google is likely to be building a symmetrical Gigabit FTTH network, not a passive optical network such as those built by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and others. The goal is not to get into the broadband ISP business, but to be able to test the next generation of interactive video applications, he suggests.

"I think this is an initiative so Google can get out ahead of competition on software and user interfaces for highly visual, highly computational things, like 3D games, the ability to change point of view in a virtual reality environment, and things like that," Day said.

That kind of research goes on today in a lab environment, but in a real-world test Google can involve real consumers, not just lab techs, and real-world conditions that identify network and software bottlenecks and delays that can't be simulated in the lab, Day believes.

As for the ease of building such a network, Day points out there are tariffed Gigabit Ethernet backbone services available today from multiple service providers, as well as transport and middle-mile fiber available as well.

For some municipal fiber networks, Google could play the hero, rescuing financially strapped projects and breathing new life into some that might be flagging. Even municipalities that aren't struggling, such as the Bristol, Va., network, or the Lafayette, La., network now reportedly ahead of its construction plans, could welcome Google with open arms.

In short, Google's broadband network could well be less -- or more -- than many expect. Either way, it will be fascinating to watch.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:42:35 PM
re: A Different Take on Google Broadband

It's still early in this whole process, but I still wonder how much of this is posturing as the FCC gets its (delayed) broadband plan together... an attempt to set the bar and try to show the Feds some nifty numbers and ideas that, by comparison, make most of today's broadband networks appear sad and woeful by comparison.

Guess we'll have to see if Google does indeed put its money where its mouth is on this... and see which end of that 50,000 to 500,000 spectrum it ends up serving. But I do think there will be lots of munis out there that will gladly try to take part in this mighty Google's project. JB

Tesla_x 12/5/2012 | 4:42:00 PM
re: A Different Take on Google Broadband

Yes, there are:

In the US, Rural Telephone of Lenora, KS is s currently serving approx 8,000 homes with 1Gbps to the home.  Pineland Telephone of Metter, GA is in the process of replacing all of their old copper wire with fiber and currently have 4,000 homes connected to 1Gbps service. Lastly, 3 Rivers Telephone, Fairfield MT has 3,000 homes receiving 1Gbps. These three networks use gear from Occam Networks, a company I have often written about.



And who has the best gear?  Here is one possible indicator: Infonetics




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