Saturday, October 01, 2005

Google wi-fi taking off? 

Speculating about Google's plans is a sport on this blog. Last week, I had made a post about Google letting you download a secure access installer and providing wi-fi access in some corners of San Francisco. Now comes news from the S.F.Chronicle that Google has in fact made an offer to blanket the city by the bay with free, universal wi-fi coverage.
The proposal raises speculation that Google intends to create a free national Wi-Fi network, a business in which the company has limited experience. If so, it could pose a serious challenge to existing Internet service providers such as SBC-Yahoo, Earthlink, Comcast and America Online, which charge subscriptions for wire connections.

As part of its 100-page bid, Google said it could install a Wi-Fi network without cost to the city. Users with Wi-Fi-enabled computers could then log on to basic service, without paying, no matter where they are within the city limits. The speed of basic service would be 300 kilobits per second, which is much faster than dial-up Internet service but slower than some broadband. Sacca said that Google, which makes virtually all its money from online advertising, had yet to determine whether it would include ads in the service. But Google said it would make its Wi-Fi network available for a fee to companies that want to offer paid Internet services. Sacca said there were no plans to share any revenue with the city.

San Francisco is a notoriously difficult city for blanket Wi-Fi coverage because of its hills, valleys and tall buildings. To ensure a good signal, Google would install up to 30 small Wi-Fi antennas per square mile.

I need to check if I can log onto the Google wi-fi network from Bryant Park, one of Google's supposed nodes in NYC. In the meanwhile, Google is also buying 270,000 sq.ft of space in a Chelsea building, which is where the communications infrastructure of some leading telecom providers is collocated. Combine Google's cash hoard, its fabled server farm, and rumours of Google buying an enormous amount of dark fibre, and you begin to get some idea of the emerging GoogleNet.