Google Out of Valley WiFi Bid
Google already has built a WiFi network in Mountain View, Calif., and has won a bid with partner EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) to build one in San Francisco. (See Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi.)
The Silicon Valley network would provide coverage for 2.4 million people in a 1,500 square-mile swath of land stretching from Daly City (just south of San Francisco) all the way to Santa Cruz.
The fact that Google's choosing not to participate in one of the largest muni WiFi efforts, right in its back yard, indicates that it may not have long-term designs on being a global WiFi provider, as many have speculated. The new network represented a chance for Google to dramatically expand its Mountain View and San Francisco networks. It would also have furthered Google’s ad-driven WiFi plans. (See Google's Ad-Mad Network .)
Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network COO Seth Fearey contends that Google’s muni WiFi forays are really not the start of a new revenue-generating business, but simply "market research" projects. “They are looking for research that will help them identify what kinds of new products and services they can offer advertisers,” Fearey tells Light Reading.
Fearey believes Google will get out of the WiFi business in San Francisco and Mountain View once its “research” is done: “My guess is that once they have the information they need they will back out or turn it over to somebody else or who knows what."
Google's eventual exit might end up being a good thing for Silicon Valley WiFi users. “Our vision is that you have one account wherever you are in Silicon Valley,” Fearey says. “If you have an account in Daly City and then you move down to Cupertino or Mountain View, you shouldn’t have to have a separate account or a separate log-on."
Fearey says he asked Google executive Larry Adler if Google would be willing to “open up” its Mountain View network to Silicon Valley WiFi account holders after the research project was finished, and Adler said yes. He hasn’t yet discussed with Google the possibility of the same sort of access to the San Francisco network.
Google has a slightly different take on its lack of involvement. "We are focused on Mountain View and San Francisco, and we are very busy in the installing and planning efforts there, and that’s why we are not responding to the Silicon Valley RFP,” Google spokeswoman Megan Quinn says.
EarthLink may have a go at the Silicon Valley network. “At this time we are investigating our options in regards to Silicon Valley,” says EarthLink’s Jerry Grasso in an email to Light Reading. “No comment in regards to Google.”
The Wireless Silicon Valley Task Force says it wants proposals for a privately owned and operated network, but one that will benefit city governments. Agencies from 36 cities are pledging right-of-way privileges, a streamlined permitting process, and a single point of terms negotiation for the vendor or vendors that build the network.
The Task Force is asking vendors to provide plans for a free or low-cost network delivering speeds of greater than 256 kbit/s. According to the RFP, a tier of 1 Mbit/s service could be offered for a higher price.
The Wireless Silicon Valley Task Force represents member organizations ranging from city governments to tech companies like Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), which supplied early funding and consulting help.
Responses from vendors are due by June 30. Vendor selections will be announced in September.
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading