Google wants to give WiFi routers an intelligence boost.
In a blog post, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) announced that it's launching a new type of WiFi router called OnHub that combines sophisticated hardware design with bandwidth customization options, automated security and feature updates, and an associated mobile app for managing WiFi configurations.
The first OnHub router has been developed in partnership with TP-LINK , but Google says it will work with other hardware partners in the future, including AsusTek Computer Inc. , which should have an OnHub product out later this year. OnHub is available today for pre-order for $200 through multiple online retailers.
Google isn't the first to try sprucing up the home WiFi router. With WiFi networks now expected to support multiple high-bandwidth applications, several companies have experimented with technology that provides finer control over bandwidth allocation. PowerCloud Systems, which was bought up by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) last year, created the Skydog WiFi router with management software that allows users to assign specific bandwidth allotments to different devices and provides substantial parental controls. (See Comcast Sweeps Up PowerCloud.)
Israeli company Celeno Communications also sells a WiFi management software called OptimizAIR that enables dynamic bandwidth provisioning and is reportedly being integrated into hardware from a variety of manufacturers.
By offering a dedicated retail product, however, Google may give itself a leg up on branding the high-performance WiFi experience. The company will also have the option of using its new router platform in Google Fiber deployments. Improving WiFi is a particular concern with gigabit Internet services where the home network tends to be a bottleneck for speed and capacity.
Included in the OnHub technical specs are support for 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, ZigBee, Thread, Bluetooth and Bluetooth 4.0, and WPA2-PSK security. Google notes that OnHub will also be compatible with "next-generation technologies" like Bluetooth Smart Ready, Google's own Weave Internet of Things (IoT) protocol and 802.15.4.
On the design front, OnHub includes 13 antennas arranged in a circular pattern for wider signal range. Six of the antennas are dedicated to the 2.4GHz frequency band, while six are for the 5GHz band. A final antenna is used solely for sensing congestion.
Although round rather than trapezoidal, the new Google router looks oddly similar in form to the Gigabit Home Gateway Comcast introduced in May. Both are vertically oriented, which may be due to engineering requirements around cooling. (See Comcast Readies D3.1 & RDK-B.)
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading