October 20, 2016
With one acquisition, Google has expanded its broadband network and solidified its status as a wireless internet service provider (ISP).
Google Fiber became a service in 2012, first providing broadband Internet and cable television to Kansas City and surrounding areas during an experimentation period. By mid-2016, Google Fiber had 68,715 television subscribers and was estimated to have about 453,000 broadband customers; however, recent reports show that the company has been experiencing some difficulties with further deployments and growth.*
Despite these alleged setbacks, Google Fiber announced earlier this month its acquisition of Webpass, a gigabit provider based in the San Francisco area — effectively assuming Webpass’ point-to-point wireless business and gigabit broadband customers in the five major U.S. markets of San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston and Miami.*
Admittedly, Google Fiber’s progress becomes less impressive when put into perspective in terms of customer volume (according to Webpass, its customer base only numbers in the “tens of thousands”); but Google Fiber specifies that the real benefit from the acquisition will be Webpass technology, which will supplement its fiber-to-the-home networks for gigabit delivery.
Although financial details about the acquisition aren’t available, it’s clear that Google Fiber is making slow but steady progress in building its network and establishing itself in the telecom industry.
These ambitious goals fit the bill for Google’s recent forays into new industries: In addition to Google Fiber’s advancements as a wireless service provider, Google has also launched web services allowing customers to make phone calls and send messages without using traditional telecom offerings.
Most notably, Google’s Project Fi (see Google Enters the Wireless Industry with a New Service) provides wireless phone and data services through the WiFi and cellular networks of Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Three (a similar setup to Comcast’s new wireless service – see Comcast Sets Sights on Wireless in 2017).
Clearly, change is on the way for the traditional structure of the wireless and telecom industries.
Despite its recent progress and successes, Google executives are hesitant to admit any ambitions toward global services or networks.
Still, customers’ ability to transition between network connectivity and WiFi could be a groundbreaking technology (in 2013, we named seamless transitioning to the best connection as one of the biggest obstacles for WiFi). As we’ve stated before, successful wireless service like Project Fi could pressure more established wireless providers to become more competitive. That means lower prices, more innovation in new technology, and better deals for users.
Experts note that the project could revolutionize the way carriers treat unused data–today, only a few carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile allow unused data to roll over.
Furthermore, a service with the ability to seamlessly move from networks to WiFi could become a huge industry differentiator for Google and set them on a promising road to success in the wireless industry.
Paired with improving carrier network performance, the end result could be a huge win for users everywhere.