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Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) confirmed Wednesday it has partnered with the ISP EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) to compete for a contract to build San Francisco's municipal WiFi network. (See Google, Earthlink Bid on WiFi.)

Google and EarthLink submitted one of seven responses to a request for proposal (RFP) from the city, a spokesman says.

Google and EarthLink submitted separate proposals to the city during the previous phase of the vendor selection process last fall. Google's plan to offer free, ad-supported WiFi remains in the Google/EarthLink proposal, but an option for consumers to buy a higher tier of broadband service from EarthLink for around $20 has been added in. (See Municipal Broadband Networks.)

“In this proposal, Google will provide a free WiFi service citywide and EarthLink will serve as the premium service provider,” Google’s Megan Quinn said in an email to Light Reading Wednesday. (See Google Backlash Builds.)

According to the Google/EarthLink proposal, the free access would deliver a throughput of "300 Kbps for users citywide." The paid service tier would deliver "best efforts 1Mbps downstream and upstream" and would be priced at "around $20.00 per month." A number of competing ISPs would offer access over the network, the proposal says.

The Google/EarthLink alliance could have far-reaching consequences for EarthLink if things go well in San Francisco. (See Google's Ad-Mad Network .) Some observers believe San Francisco is but the first of many major cities to which Google would like to roll out free, ad-supported WiFi. (See Google's Own Private Internet and Google Cubes.)

“By coming together to leverage the strengths of both companies, we will be able to offer services to different customers on the network that fit with their own individual needs and wants,” EarthLink VP of municipal networks Donald Berryman says in a statement. (See Wireless Mesh Test Gets Underway.)

Google's chances of winning in San Francisco might be helped by EarthLink's recent momentum in the municipal WiFi world. (See EarthLink Hooks Up Philly.) EarthLink has already won high-profile municipal WiFi contracts in the cities of Philadelphia and Anaheim, Calif., and is competing for several others.

Given the complexity of municipal wireless networks, it’s no surprise that partnerships are forming even before the contract has been awarded, says analyst Esme Vos of MuniWireless.com .

The hardware element of such networks include everything from base stations to switching equipment to backhaul gear. Software elements include such things as Internet access, various broadband services, and billing and other back-end functions. (See Poll: RBOCs Fuel 'Broadband Gap'.)

The Google/EarthLink proposal calls for Tropos Networks Inc. to provide wireless mesh network equipment. (See Gorillas in the Mesh.) Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) is named in the proposal to provide the backhaul equipment that moves wireless traffic from the WiFi nodes to the access towers.

“When you look at EarthLink they partner with all kinds of people,” Vos says. “EarthLink’s an ISP, they’re not a systems integrator – so they would need somebody to go in and set up the nodes and somebody to put in the back-end software.”

San Francisco chief administrative officer Ron Vinson told Light Reading Wednesday that his office received a total of seven competing proposals. (See Coalition Calls for Community Broadband.)

Competing with the Google/EarthLink combo will be MetroFi Inc. , Communication Bridge Global, NextWLAN, Razortooth Communications, SF Metro Connect (a partnership of SeaKay, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)), and one other unnamed player whose response came in late. (See SF Gets 6 Muni WiFi Bids.)

Vinson says an RFP review panel is now coming together to evaluate the proposals. The panel hopes to arrive at a finalist by early April, Vinson says, at which time negotiations over financial terms would commence.

Google and EarthLink estimate that the San Francisco network could be built in six to 10 months, barring any unforeseen problems.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:13 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Oops, got x and y backwards. y (the down direction) is generally much bigger than x (the up direction).

Steve.
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:13 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

What you pay for is not actually bandwidth. Read your contract with your supplier. "unlimited" is defined by various ISPs differently but tend to say that you are allowed xGBs (note that it is not GB/s) per month up and yGBs down. x is generally greater than y. Some carriers, and media types, calculate the oversubscription ratio as the max bandwidth 24/7/month divided by the number of subscribers on the line. This ends up being a big number of bits.

Each carrier is different but I am sure they apply a bell curve to the numbers vs. time of day to arrive at the numbers in your contract but it is NOT guaranteed bandwidth.

Steve.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:13 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
Stephen,

If there is no congestion, why would anybody limit my access below the bit rate clocked at the port.

Beyond that, oversubscription ratios should (and are not I agree) be part of the agreement.

seven
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:12 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

I don't imagine that anyone would limit your access in that situation; but I would expect that they would charge it against the maximum amounts listed in your contract. Some carriers also list penalties for exceeding the max traffic bounds. For example BT used to reduce the clock rate on the port once the limits were exceeded, at no extra charge, until the end of the month when it was reset. In many corporate contracts there is actually a monetary penalty where you pay $AAA for an extra qGB which is at a higer rate than your regular contract. If you do this more than once you may get a call from an account rep asking if you would like to increase your base contract.

Steve.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:12 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
Stephen,

If there is no congestion, why would anybody limit my access below the bit rate clocked at the port.

Beyond that, oversubscription ratios should (and are not I agree) be part of the agreement.

seven
opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi I checked the Corpus Christi website and the coverage doesn't look so good. Plus there is this statement:

"Though free access is currently provided, the City plans to charge an affordable rate to cover ongoing implementation and support costs."

It doesn't really compare to what's being planned in SF and Philadelphia.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
That is BT and is a business service.

In the residential case, all that is listed is a port rate. So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times the network should accept my portion of the traffic. Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right? It should not matter that an hour ago, when there was no congestion that I still offered maximum bandwidth.

seven
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
That is BT and is a business service.

In the residential case, all that is listed is a port rate. So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times the network should accept my portion of the traffic. Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right? It should not matter that an hour ago, when there was no congestion that I still offered maximum bandwidth.

seven
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

"In the residential case, all that is listed is a port rate. So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times the network should accept my portion of the traffic. Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right? It should not matter that an hour ago, when there was no congestion that I still offered maximum bandwidth."

I know you know the difference between what is listed (ie: marketing) and what is in the T's & C's (ie: what you actually pay for). Put yourself in the carrier's seat and figure out how you would charge for (ie: generate revenue) and how you would gain customers for (ie: marketing) your DSL service. It is not as easy as you might think.

"So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times" = oversubscription rate of 1:1 (ie: no oversubscription, no stat muxing).

"Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right?" Fairness has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with what you actually pay for (ie: the T's & C's).

Steve.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:10 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
chip,

Yes, I know it is silly. I also recognize sarcasm. Yes, I know the game that is being played. I am actually okay with the game to a certain point. I expect my connection to be oversubscribed. I agree that this ought to be a published and testable phenomenon, as it would give us some objective idea of whose service is actually better.

See, I actually think paying for QoS is okay. It is just I think there ought to be truth in advertising.

seven
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