Google Fiber is a broadband internet connection similar to – though significantly faster – offerings from Comcast Xfinity, AT&T U-verse, Spectrum, Verizon FIOS and other internet service providers.
Owned and operated by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, Google Fiber was announced in 2010 and began its initial rollout in 2012, a year after choosing Kansas City as its official launch location. A small test deployment near Palo Alto was completed prior to launch in Kansas City.
Why get excited about Google Fiber?
Google Fiber offers internet at the speed of 1 gigabit per second (1 Gbps). By comparison, the average household in the United States has an internet connection of just under 20 megabits per second (20 Mbps). Broadband internet these days is usually between 25 and 75 Mbps, with a few offerings over 100 Mbps.
A 1 Gbps connection is hard to imagine, even if you’ve been working in technology for a few decades. We’re slowly moving from 1080p video to 4K video, which is great from a quality standpoint. But at 1080p, a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 only takes up about 5 gigabytes (GB) in file size. The 4K version takes up a massive 60GB. It would take an average internet connection over 7 hours to download the 4K version of the movie if it was downloading at the optimum speed.
It would take Google Fiber less than 10 minutes to do this.
This is in theory, of course. In practice, companies like Amazon, Apple or Google will throttle this speed drastically to prevent their websites from being overwhelmed, but the higher speed means you can have dozens of connections each running much faster than the average household.
While that 20 Gbps representing the average connection can stream a 4K movie, they couldn’t stream more than one at a time. With Google Fiber, you can stream 60 movies in 4K quality and have plenty of bandwidth. As our movies, games, and apps get bigger and bigger, higher bandwidth will be needed.
Why is Google pushing?
Although Google has never disclosed its long-term strategy for Google Fiber, most industry experts believe that Google is using the service to push other providers, like Comcast and Spectrum, to provide connections at higher speeds. throughput, rather than competing with them. What’s good for the internet is good for Google, and higher bandwidth speeds mean faster access to Google’s services.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Alphabet isn’t looking to make a direct profit from Google Fiber. While rollouts in new cities paused in 2016, Google Fiber launched in three new cities in 2017, including one previously unannounced city.
Google Fiber rollout remains slow, but a major improvement in 2017 rollouts comes from a fiber laying technique called a shallow trench, which lays fiber in a small hole in concrete which is then backfilled with a special epoxy. Installing fiber over an area as large as a city is the longest part of a rollout, so any increase in cable laying speed is good news for people waiting for Google Fiber.
What is Webpass?
Webpass is a wired Internet connection without the wires which is mainly aimed at high occupancy residential buildings such as apartments and commercial buildings. It sounds weird until you figure out how it works, which is actually pretty cool. Webpass uses an antenna on the roof of the building to receive a wireless Internet connection, but the building itself is actually wired.
Basically, it acts like any other internet service as far as the end user (i.e. you) is concerned. And while it’s not as fast as Google Fiber, it’s actually quite fast with bandwidth ranging from 100 Mbps all the way up to 500 Mbps, which is about half the speed of Google Fiber or 25 times faster than the average internet speed in the United States.
Google Fiber acquired Webpass in 2016. The acquisition followed a period when Google Fiber had paused deployments, fueling speculation that Google would abandon Google Fiber. After purchasing Webpass, Google Fiber resumed deployments in new cities.
Where is Google Fiber available?
After a test launch near Palo Alto, Google Fiber’s first official city was Kansas City. Service has expanded to Austin, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Louisville, and San Antonio, among other parts of the country. Webpass is based in San Francisco and serves Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Oakland, San Diego and other areas.
Check the coverage map to see where Google Fiber and Webpass are offered, including cities that may benefit from these services in the near future.