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Google & EarthLink Team Up

Two of the biggest rivals bidding for the contract to provide citywide wireless in San Francisco, EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), have teamed up to offer a service that combines a free and paid WiFi access service.

Google will provide a free service with slower connections that is paid for with advertising, while EarthLink will offer a pay service with faster connections.

The firms are planning to use mesh networking WiFi gear to provide the service. Mesh is being used for many of citywide networks because the technology -- which passes data wirelessly around a large-scale network -- requires fewer connections than competing technologies.

"We have submitted this proposal because at Google we're focused on creating new technologies that make it easier for people to quickly access the world's information," a Google spokeswoman says.

"It is also a way for Google to support the local community. We believe this proposal and our combined technological expertise will benefit the residents of San Francisco by offering a choice in connectivity and service providers."

Some see the partnership as a harbinger of bigger projects to come, although Google spokeswoman says that the partnership is focused on San Francisco.

"I can’t imagine a more compelling partnership for this project," says Brad Day, marketing and communications director at metro-mesh startup Tropos Networks Inc. , which supplies mesh networking equipment to both firms. "EarthLink is one of the most respected ISPs in the U.S., and Google can deliver location-based advertising to users of the free service."

Some industry watchers see the deal as yet another indication of the growing influence of mesh networking, and believe that the firms will not stop at San Francisco.

"Obviously you wouldn't do this just in San Francisco -- they have to be thinking nationally, maybe even globally," comments Craig Mathias, analyst at the Farpoint Group .

Some observers believe that Google has major ambitions in the WiFi market. "You can bet they have big plans," an industry source tells Unstrung.

First, however, the firms have to win the contract to unwire San Francisco. Communication Bridge Global; Earthlink/Google; MetroFi; NextWLAN; Razortooth Communications LLP (dba RedTAP); and SF Metro Connect (SeaKay, Cisco, IBM) have all put in for the contract.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

standardsarefun 12/5/2012 | 4:04:12 AM
re: Google & EarthLink Team Up What I find funny about this story is that no-one has spotted the parallel with the huge debate running on the sister Lightreading pages about ISPs planning to introduce two-tier fee structures for fixed broadband....

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