The planet is more connected now than ever before. With more than 80% of the world’s population owning a mobile phone and just over 1 billion of those people using smartphones, being linked even while on the go has become a standard expectation in our daily lives. The advent of cloud data storage and the growing popularity of streaming and social media have helped to push the amount of time we spend on the Internet every day to staggering levels. Yet, with a future steeped in promises of streaming game and media consoles like Sony’s soon-to-be announced PS3 successor and even more Roku-esq devices like the Toshiba and Intel built set-top boxes, it has becomes painfully obvious that many major new tech manufacturers are relying heavily on a future full of more rapid, high speed data connectability.
Unfortunately for consumers, one major player in this game of rising wired and mobile communication isn’t keeping up with all the others. Telecommunication companies like AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Time Warner have held a dominant grasp over home and business based Internet connection and mobile phone markets for years. And as those years have progressed, consumers have seen Internet, mobile, and cable prices climb steadily while their service speeds have increased at a snail’s pace in relation. Coupled with data cabs and general business practices bred to stifle competition, the overall result is a large road-boulder of data usage limitations that has helped slow the growth and development of communication based technologies. With a new wave of innovative mobile and wearable computing finally coming along in the next few years, consumers may find themselves wishing for something more from their telecommunications providers in order to keep up with the increased demands of the ever connecting world.
One company that is poised to drastically influence a telecommunications revolution is Palo Alto based Internet behemoth, Google Inc. Less than two years after Google first announced Kansas City as the site of their experimental Google Fiber broadband network, the service’s advertised 1 Gbps Internet speeds, innovative television delivery system, and ridiculously reasonable price tag have already been making waves in the industry. The main cable and Internet providers, such as Time Warner Cable, have been sweating bullets trying to figure out how to encourage users to stick with their much slower (up to 100x slower) and often pricier services while Google Fiber continues to snatch customers away with offers of unrestricted and unthrottled Internet access.
While Google Fiber may still be in its experimental startup phase, the concept of trying to bring consumers closer to a more easily accessible Internet isn’t anything new for the company. Google’s underlying focus on both the large and small scale has traditionally been to offer Internet services as conveniently as possible to users. From its Google Search service to its new laptop (with custom Chrome OS) and its growing arsenal of Android supported smartphones, everything about Google shows an underlying goal of connecting people faster and more often to the content and services they supply. With the latest announcement that they are looking to expand their high-speed Internet service, Google has finally decided to officially bypass the middle telecommunications companies and offer direct consumer access to their main business instrument, the Internet.
But Google doesn’t have to stop with just wired internet. Like a slow growing patch of vines, once the Google fiber-optic network has reached an appropriate apex, it will slowly climb toward the sky. Google has already rolled out a free community wireless network in cities before, but that could be just the beginning of much grander plans. With the recent FCC proposal to shift a powerful and wide reaching frequency of the wireless spectrum over to the public domain, the potential of Google’s future as a telecom giant becomes scarily real. The following details are where we leave current knowledge and pass slightly into speculative and highly technical futures.
Each Google Fiber subscription includes a 1 terabyte Google Drive cloud storage account, a 2 terabyte DVR unit, a Nexus tablet, and a proprietary Google network box. At the heart of each of these network boxes is an ultra-broadband backbone of ridiculously fast Internet. Considering Google’s current 802.11n router based network boxes, it is not farfetched to consider the possibility that Google could begin building these network boxes to also broadcast wireless signal under the 5 Ghz and even 2.4 Ghz spectrum using more advanced technology like 802.11ac style wireless routes currently being produced for alpha and beta consumer testing. Using the correct configurations, Google could in turn could create a primitive wireless mesh network of connected nodes and access points all running on google’s extra fast fiber-optic ground network. Considering the current limited speeds of the 2.4 GHz (72 Mbps) and 5.0 GHz spectrum (150 Mbps), the mesh would be able to provide untold connectability and speeds to the world of local wireless networking.
Utilizing the proposed changes of the wireless spectrum, Google could advance their wireless network by developing secondary wireless broadcast nodes at frequencies lower than 2.4 GHz. These frequencies are much stronger in penetration and geographical reach compared to the higher frequency spectrum and they still offer enough speed to allow for a relatively good quality transfer of data. This wireless method could help Google expand out beyond urban cities and into the more suburb and rural areas of the U.S.
By controlling the broadcast capabilities of the network box with their own hardware and software, Google could maintain a secured and encrypted wireless network set up to create a seamless roaming experience. This network could help spread Google Internet coverage to areas beyond the immediate grasp of their fiber-optic networks by offering free or low cost basic wireless connection to encourage consumers to switch to Google’s Internet Services. This would in turn allow Google to expand its base fiber-optic network while still offering varying levels of service to additional customers. With this new local and long-distance wireless network, Google could start offering a variety of individual wireless and wired packages for consumers.
Through the use of a secure identification method like anonymous encrypted certificate generation, Google could open higher tiered access for any individual account signed up with them. A user could sign up and pay for levels of network access all the way from basic wireless mobile coverage, to more powerful local wifi-access, and the direct fiber-optic line for home use. A consumer could then assign any of their special Google partnered hardware (like the latest Nexus smartphone, Samsung tablets, or Google’s own Chromebook or Google Glass) to their service account to allow effortless connection anywhere.
To further expand their backbone fiber-optic network to new cities, Google could strategically fund or partner on local municipals projects (such as Seattle’s planned Gigabit Squared backed network) to develop city-wide broadband access run on Google’s content and Internet services. Once the wired networks start to take place, Google would be able to advance the local projects independently if needed (such as they did in Kansas City) until they have completed their wired and wireless network structure. As time passed, Google could eventually offer all its resulting wired or wireless Internet network service for free to consumers. Build and sale of the network boxes could be licensed out to various partnered hardware manufacturers and opened up for competitive advancement of the broadcasting technologies with Google getting a cut of each new router based network box sold. For free or even with a one-time fee, Google could connect the router to their system and turn that router into another point in the mesh. Once the initial development cost has been recouped, the company would still bring in massive revenues from increased sales of their other Internet products and services with minimal cost associated toward maintaining the network. Since each hub would be housed in private residences and networked in a mesh style net of access points and relays, large-scale failures would be of little risk as accessibility expanded out to unseen levels.
Coupled with Google’s ownership of massive portions of the underlying structure of the Internet and the amount of services they currently provide to Internet users. One can imagine a future filled with Google gadgets all running on Google systems and accessing Google web servers. The idea may seem a bit frightful for haters of big corporations and anti-monopoly proponents, but at this moment it is one of many options that could realistically happen in the next few years, assuming no government agency steps in to prevent it. One of the benefits of this future though would be the revolutionary spur of innovation that we could potentially see in the telecommunications industry as a result.
Along each step would be other smaller, more nimble tech companies working twice as hard to break into the wired and wireless telecommunications racket. Assuming the older and slower moving telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner finally learn their lessons and start developing and expanding on their broadband and fiber-optic services, we could see an eventual race toward uniformly high speed networks throughout the country. If the existing mobile service providers continue to partner up with opposing technology companies like Apple or Samsung, we could be in for some very interesting jousting down the line with regard to network compliance standards, inter-connectability of competing networks, and even mobile hardware offerings.
Either way, Google will remain sitting on top, happy and content to bask in the multi-billion dollar empire it has built. The company’s diverse portfolio of pioneering RD projects, ever-increasing collection of mobile hardware and software, and sound revenue-based Internet services makes it an unstoppable force in the world of tech today. All Google has to do is say the words and it could fast-track growth in the telecommunications industry to levels not seen since the early days of the Internet.
I, for one, would welcome our new Google overlord with open arms.