Google has been rolling out its super-fast Fiber internet service for a few years now, but so far it’s only available in a handful of markets. Turns out wiring up each individual home for fiber connections is not only a lot of work but also quite expensive. Now, the company is reportedly exploring a low-cost alternative in the form of gigabit Wi-Fi.
The tidbit was dropped by Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt during the company's annual shareholder meeting. According to Schmidt, improvements to computer chips and wireless signal targeting have made "point-to-point" wireless Internet connections "cheaper than digging up your garden” while still delivering comparable speeds to wired infrastructure.
He is referring to millimeter wave technology, a type of wireless that operates at a higher frequency than the crowded ones used by conventional WiFi. It offers extremely high throughput in theory but it’s not without its problems -- namely, the fact that high frequency signals are more easily blocked by walls or atmospheric conditions.
Under the current plan, Google would still need to build fiber infrastructure in every new market it intends to bring its service to, but could put up millimeter wave nodes in neighborhoods to handle the last mile of the network.
Google is already testing the wireless technology in Kansas City, and hopes to have a demo network operating there by next year.
The company isn’t alone in experimenting with millimeter waves technology. Facebook is also looking into it as a way to replace fiber in these dense urban areas under its Terragraph project, and Starry, the company led by fomer Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia plans to challenge traditional ISPs by leveraging the technology.