Google Fiber Buys Webpass in Wireless Play

The takeover of Webpass will take Google Fiber into new urban markets and offer a fixed-wireless technology that could have a major impact in the future.

Iain Morris, International Editor

June 23, 2016

2 Min Read
Google Fiber Buys Webpass in Wireless Play

Google Fiber has revealed plans to buy a San Francisco-based gigabit player called Webpass in a move that could support efforts to develop high-speed services based on fixed-wireless technologies.

Webpass claims to provide gigabit-speed services to "tens of thousands" of customers in the major US urban markets of San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Miami, Chicago and Boston. It owns its own Ethernet network and relies heavily on point-to-point wireless technology to provide services.

Google Fiber Inc. announced plans to enter the US broadband market in 2010 and is now "live" in the five cities of Atlanta, Austin, Kansas City, Provo and Nashville. Although its progress has been slow, the company has spurred other broadband players, including municipalities, to enter the gigabit fray.

The takeover of Webpass -- the financial terms of which were not disclosed -- will allow Google to expand quickly into markets where it has yet to launch wireline services. Google had previously earmarked the cities of Chicago, San Diego and San Francisco as either "upcoming" or "potential" fiber cities.

What makes the deal particularly interesting, however, is the point-to-point wireless technology that Webpass uses.

So far, Google has been using fiber-to-the-home technology to provide high-speed broadband services to consumers and businesses. But during a shareholder meeting of owner Alphabet Inc. earlier this month, Eric Schmidt, Alphabet's executive chairman, suggested that fixed-wireless technologies could have a big impact on Google Fiber's business.

The rollout of gigabit broadband access networks is spreading. Find out what's happening where in our dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel here on Light Reading.

"There appear to be wireless solutions that are point to point that are inexpensive now because of the improvements in semiconductors; that these point to point solutions are cheaper than digging up your garden… and can carry the gigabit performance," said Schmidt, as reported by Light Reading. (See Alphabet Wants to Network the Nation's Cities.)

The Webpass deal was announced in a Twitter post late yesterday. In a statement on the company's website, Webpass President Charles Barr said that by "joining forces" with Google Fiber the operator would be able to "accelerate the deployment of superfast Internet connections for customers across the US."

"Google Fiber's resources will enable Webpass to grow faster and reach many more customers than we could as a standalone company," added Barr.

The transaction is expected to close in the summer, subject to normal approvals from state and federal competition and regulatory authorities.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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