During yesterday’s annual shareholder meeting for Alphabet, Google’s parent organization, executive chairman Eric Schmidt acknowledged the company is exploring the possibility of deploying wireless gigabit Internet as an alternative to Google Fiber in some areas.
Schmidt made his comments in response to an analyst question about “solving the very big last-mile connection problem.” That statement refers to the cost obstacles that have typically prevented wired Internet service deployments in remote, rugged or low-density communities.
Noting that he had had a “lengthy meeting” on wireless gigabit service with other executives a day earlier, Schmidt said the technology has appeared to reach a point where it’s become affordable to deploy. However, he added, “We don’t have anything to announce there. There is a lot of initiatives in the industry around that.”
Others Targeting Network Growth Challenges
Alphabet is not the only company exploring the potential for high-speed wireless connectivity, also known as millimeter wave wireless communications.
Facebook researchers, for example, hold several patents related to millimeter wave technology and cloud-based routing. In February, the company told The Verge that it is looking into the use of such technologies through its Connectivity Lab, part of Facebook’s Internet.org (now known as Free Basics) program to bring Web access to underserved regions of the world.
“Several factors make network expansion economically challenging in remote and rural areas,” Facebook stated in its “State of Connectivity 2015” report, released in February. “The deployment of each new mobile site requires substantial up-front investment by operators, who must also incur significant ongoing costs to provide services. It can be difficult for operators to offset these costs in rural areas where demand for services is typically lower.”
Microsoft is also exploring alternatives to traditional wired and wireless communications. And earlier this year, a Boston- and New York-based startup known as Starry launched with the mission to commercialize consumer millimeter wave technologies for Internet connectivity.
‘Moon Shot Ideas’
“The simple answer is that there appears to be a 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 so forth,” Schmidt said yesterday in response to the question about Alphabet’s work on wireless connectivity,
Google’s gigabit-speed Fiber service, initially launched as an experiment to “help make Internet access better and faster for everyone,” is currently available in Atlanta, Austin, Kansas City and Provo. Google has also announced plans to bring the service to seven other metropolitan areas, and has nearly a dozen other cities on its “potential” list.
During yesterday’s shareholder call, Schmidt also talked about several other ambitious projects that Alphabet is working on, including its DeepMind artificial intelligence, its research on self-driving cars and its Project Loon tests to bring cellular connectivity to rural areas via balloons.
“Well if I go back to this moon shot idea of a sort of notion, that I said that we’re not dreaming big enough, since a year ago this company has said, we’re going to do our part to set a broader agenda, that we’re literally going to say, these are solvable problems,” Schmidt said
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