Google Drops an FTTH GigaBomb

February 10th, 2010 by · 6 Comments

Oh my, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG, news, filings) does know how to make trouble don’t they?  Yesterday the internet giant announced it would delve into FTTH with a project to connect 50K-500K people to the internet at 1Gbps speeds.  They are now looking for candidate cities and municipalities to work with on this project.  Why are they doing this?  It’s a deliberately provocative move intended to make current broadband providers respond, and I think its effects will rock the access market far beyond the initial shock wave.  For now though let’s look at the immediate implications:

  • Like many out there, Google is obviously displeased with the state of US access networks, and has no faith in the effectiveness of the government’s efforts for spreading broadband.  Remember last year when the definition for broadband got watered down to “anything that’s faster than dial-up most of the time“?
  • Google is trying to make a point about network architecture.  In fact it’s one that Dave Schaeffer of Cogent made to me recently.  There are huge differences in both functional capacity and economic viability between building a broadband access network over a legacy vs modern infrastructure.  It’s far easier to do the former and that’s how most broadband is done in the US right now, but we really need to do the latter to reach the kind of speeds everyone dreams of.
  • Open access is about to get a very public demonstration.  At the moment the argument over the viability of open access networks is a political one.  References to actual economic viability are, frankly, either purely hypothetical or heavily extrapolated.  Google wants open access networks, and they’re willing to spend a large pile of cash to prove that they work.
  • What would you do with a 1Gbps connection?  No really… what *could* you do?  Some out there are saying ‘nothing’ since there are no consumer applications out there that consume or produce data on that scale, but I’m going to wager that someone out there will figure out some way to max out that bandwidth within a month or two of getting it.
  • Enlisting the public this way is brilliant.  The public has been crying out for more broadband, and Google is clearly trying to access that discontent, mobilize it, and ride it.  By calling for volunteers from mayors and municipal officials, they are essentially issuing a call to the public to tweak the noses of their ILECs and cable MSOs – and they will get lots of takers.
  • While the access market is probably grumbling, backbone providers like Cogent, Global Crossing, and Level 3 are probably ecstatic about Google’s move.  That’s because they are ready to provide the intercity bandwidth for 1Gbps access networks any time, any day, any place – if only that day would hurry up and get here.

The whole concept will likely never go beyond a demonstration project.  As with so many of its efforts, Google is looking to use its size and influence to shape where the internet is heading so that it can make more money in its core businesses.  To them it is quite simple: more traffic equals more profits, and therefore they will do what they have to do to enable the public to consume as many bits as possible.   Once the internet is headed in the right direction, they will probably just back off.

This is obviously a developing story that will go on for a year or more.  Just wait for the battle over whose equipment to use breaks out…

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Categories: FTTH

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6 Comments So Far

  • Brian Scully says:


    The below links are from a forecasting group by the name of Technology Futures Inc.

    Dr. Vanston and his staff have been forecasting the industry for a while now and have put together the summary below. His track record for accuracy is the 2nd link.

    Forecast for U.S. Telecommunications Network

    Track Record

  • FAC says:

    Whose eqipment, is one thing. What constitutes “open access” is another. Also, “open access” is quite a lofty aspiration for a “trial”. What, are they going to allow competitors to use this testbed during the trialing phase? Will ‘open access’ be at the bitstream level (Layers 2 and 3) or is access open to other competitors at the physical fiber/wire layer (Layers 0 and 1)? Also, will G bring fiber all the way to MDU end points or will they resort to copper in the last couple hundred feet by using 1000BaseT over UTP from basement and hallway fiber nodes?

  • DaveRusin says:

    Google – FTTH – Big Y-A-W-N !!!!

  • Irit Gillath says:

    In order for Google to fulfill its goal to offer true network neutrality and network speeds up to 1 Gbps, it is critical that they carefully consider their technology choice. Selecting a technology that is fully standardized will enable them to offer a true neutral open system. Telco Systems has helped many municipalities over the past 10 years succeed in offering its residents this type of network using Active Ethernet.

    There are important advantages for municipalities to deploy a high-speed FTTH network. Municipalities like Grant and Mason counties in Washington decided to use Active Ethernet when they built their network several years ago. As a result they have seen an increase in the number of small businesses and home-based businesses, larger businesses establishing facilities in the area (Microsoft, Ask Jeeves, Intuit, Sims, trucking companies and online engineering firms), as well as an improvement in the efficiency of local city administration. These deployments have been well documented by the FTTH Council and are proving to be not only profitable but also beneficial to the community.

    I hope that the Google activity will in fact serve as lobbying activity in the 14 states which have limited or banned this activity by city government. Incumbent telephone companies are reluctant to invest in upgrading their networks, so it is only through competition that we can hope to achieve open access and improve the lives of every citizen.

    Irit Gillath, of Telco Systems

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