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Google's Powerline Play

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) may rely on broadband over power line (BPL) technology to augment its Mountain View, Calif., WiFi network in the face of alleged interference problems, one analyst says.

Google outfitted Mountain View with free WiFi last year (See Mountain View Gets Free Access and Google Takes WiFi Plan to the 'Hood.) But interference with other WiFi networks is creating "security and containability issues," Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry writes in a report issued earlier this month.

So, apparently, it's BPL to the rescue.

"Contacts feel Google WiFi network interference can be solved when Google rolls out DS2-based, 200 Mbit/s powerline home networking technology," Chowdhry writes.

The company Chowdhry refers to -- Design of Systems on Silicon (DS2) , of Spain -- sells BPL gear, including dongles (the adapters that plug into the wall), based on Universal Powerline Association high speed powerline networking standards. (See Pirelli Uses DS2 for Powerline.)

So when might Google make a decision on the technology? "Probably within next 12 to 18 months," Chowdhry tells Light Reading.

Another source tells Light Reading that Google is in the "talking and exploring" phase with powerline home networking.

Google spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy called any engagement with DS2 "rumor" and declined further comment.

In fact, Google isn't even admitting to the interference problem, despite several reports to the contrary from Mountain View users. (See WiFi Outlook Cloudy in Mountain View.) "You stated that users were having interference problems in their homes; I would take issue with that," O'Shaunessy says. "We haven't seen any evidence of that.”

Google has shown an interest in BPL in the past. The company invested in the BPL vendor Current Communications Group LLC in July 2005. But Current doesn't make home networking gear; its technology is focused on helping electric utilities deliver broadband service over the public power grid. (See Current Comms Raises $130M.)

Google has a foot in home networking as well. In November 2006, it invested in the startup Meraki, which makes in-home wireless mesh routers intended to extend muni WiFi signal into apartment buildings and homes. (See Google Invests in Indoor Mesh.)

Chowdhry believes Google has spent between $1.2 million and $1.5 million on WiFi equipment for Mountain View. The city covers about 12 square miles and is home to around 72,000 people.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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