Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

Google today launched its own fiber-to-the-home initiative, promising to build open-access fiber networks in trial communities and then share what it learns with others.

In a video statement, James Kelly, project manager on Google's infrastructure team, announced a search for interested states, cities, or communities to participate in Google's experimental FTTH builds. Here it is:

Between now and March 26, interested municipalities can fill out a Request for Information in hopes of being selected as a trial community. [Ed. note: Shades of Google's troubled WiFi project, anyone?]

"We are doing this because we want to experiment with new ways to make the Web better and faster and better for everyone, allowing new applications that aren't possible today," Kelly said. "We are going to try out new ways to build and operate fiber networks and share what we learn with the world."

Google's trial FTTH networks will be open for use by other service providers, and will serve serve at least 50,000, and up to as many as 500,000, users, according to Kelly.

Google's leap into the FTTH business puts some pressure on both cable and telecom service providers, most of which aren't today offering fiber all the way to the home, and virtually none of which are offering open-access broadband networks.

The move also comes as the federal government releases the first round of funding for broadband networks to unserved and underserved areas.

There is no indication yet what new FTTH technology Google plans to trial.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 4:42:49 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

While I applaud the approach in encouraging a leap in some technology, I wonder if there is a market requirement for this access speed in the near future.

If this can be offered at only a slightly larger price than something like FIOS then some might be interested in the greater/techy access speed.

But as an old network guy that watches/monitors delivered speed across networks I have concerns.

My 'fiber' cable delivers about 5 meg access, but if you watch most of the time the connection delivers only about 1 meg of real traffic. When you watch the link there are long delays between packets (monitored/traced) and if one counts the number of bytes of real traffic actually delivered divided by time it is hard to consistently achieve 1 meg on a 5 meg link. The delays could be because of network delays (routers/switches) and core network link congestion but appears to be primarily server delays.


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:42:48 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

That's a great point. What apps and services require the kind of speeds Google's talking about here? The "experiment" tag on this suggests that they'll be throwing the kitchen sink at it to answer that question. Anyone have some guesses?

I remember when CableLabs announced plans for docsis 3.0 and 100-meg services a handful of years ago, and most people still don't have a need for it...at least that's what the level of pickup is telling us so far...seems SMBs, not Joe Consumer, are the ones that demand/need it. JB

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:42:48 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH


Has to be video Jeff.  PCs have issues absorbing traffic (especially many home PCs) at rates much beyond where traffic is today.  Servers and Business setups can do more, but to bring to one or 2 PCs a very large sustained pipe is not very fruitful - at least for now.

The big argument would be that the incremental cost of GigE over 100 Mb/s fiber is probably not worth downgrading for.  



mrcasual 12/5/2012 | 4:42:47 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

My guess is that Google will be bundling some kind of very large storage/search farm as part of the buildout.

This would put more data closer to the edge to alleviate the congestion/delay in the core.

This would allow them to experiment with caching/distribution algorithms. I'm not sure how this would be different from what Akamai offers but presumably Google has something they want to look at.

macemoneta 12/5/2012 | 4:42:47 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

I already run Gig-E at home.  There is no problem at all using the bandwidth.  As with all Ethernet activity, it's bursty.  High bandwidth gives you interactive levels of response for activities that would otherwise be slow and time consuming.  Using storage on different machines is subjectively as fast as a local hard drive.  It changes the behavior of the people using the computers (which have no trouble at all keeping up).  With a Gig-E pipe, I can incrementally backup my machine to a service provider in seconds (as I do now at home between machines).  Cloud functionality becomes seamless to the local use experience.  I hope that 1Gb/s Google is talking about is symmetrical, because that is the key problem with bandwidth today.  Even on the same ISP, I can't copy a large file to a friend or family member's computer in a reasonable timeframe because of the very limited upload speed.  That same limitation means that cloud services are dead at the gate.  Try to backup a few hundred GB on a 2-5Mb/s uplink; it takes days.

jayja 12/5/2012 | 4:42:46 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

No need to get complicated about consumer bandwidth usage.  Try working from home. 

I stayed home yesterday due to the blizzard, working using my coporate issued laptop computer over a VPN on my MSO's standard (no premium available here - no DSL wither) service.  I spent a lot of time looking at the little hourglass. 

We use a series of shared network storage/drives for projects and organizations.  I frequently copy technical material I recieve by e-mail (from our e-mail server) to this network storage.  Lots of waiting compared to being at work.  By the end of yesterday I would have paid Google whatever they aked for symmetric 1 Gb/s service.

People's internet access at work benchmarks their expectations - and their work practices - vs what they do at home.  Like me they will get used to working with their at-work connectivity, 10 Mb/s or 100 Mb/s or even 1 Gb/s - and be frustrated at home.  The market is there.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:42:46 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

Consumers aren't going to pay hundreds per month to work from home "better," rather they'd ask their companies to pay.  Companies are unlikely to pay.  In that context, fiber to business parks is what one would expect but GOOG is in the ad business so they aren't entering there (which is the most obvious entry point.) 

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:42:46 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

If "market" is defined by an ROI for investors based upon cash flows/profits of the business per the capital investments then the answer is no.   If FTTH overbuilds were profitable to investors there would be thousands of overbuilders doing this already as we saw during the COAX buildout in the 80s.  It could be argued that Google can use the fiber access biz as a loss leader to sell more ads, but that's unlikely as GOOG doesn't have a strong enough negotiating position with respect to copyright holders and it doesn't produce any unique and compelling content itself.  As far as new apps goes, GOOG has pretty much demonstrated incompetence beyond it's search offering (just look to social networking for example of that.)  I hate to be a skeptic here but it's very doubtful GOOG will be helping towards moving our country's access infrastructure forward with such a "trial."

chechaco 12/5/2012 | 4:42:45 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

"If you build it, they will come"

There's always significant risk when such sentiment used as foundation of business development plan. What good in a movie, might not work (we've seen that so many times, including recently) in real life. Besides, cashing doesn't help with personalized content delivery and, even more so, with growing number of individual content producers (us).

Doesn't mean that Google will not be able to make some money on this project.


rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:42:45 PM
re: Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH

re: Cloud services and symmetric GigE FTTH

I'm thinking that the issue with cloud services really isn't related to symmetric GigE FTTH.  Today one can rent a virtual machine on the real internet for about $20/mo and run things like VNC over the asymmetric link to a PC at the house, i.e. all the intensive resources are in the cloud and the access network crippling by the fraudband providers isn't really the barrier.  This suggests to me the problem is that compelling, consumer based "cloud" applications, have yet to be developed and I'm not sure the symmetric GigE FTTH has much to do with solving that problem.


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