In a request submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week, Google asked for permission to test an experimental wireless broadband service in up to 24 cities across the U.S.
The FCC application comes two months after Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt acknowledged during a shareholder meeting that his company is exploring wireless alternatives to its high-speed Fiber program, which is deployed in six U.S. cities. While Google has announced plans to expand Google Fiber to several other metropolitan areas, installing the necessary infrastructure is proving costly and time-consuming.
Wireless high-speed broadband could provide a better alternative than fiber, especially in less densely populated areas. Google has recently indicated that it is interested in pursuing such an alternative, for example, announcing plans in June to acquire the San Francisco-based Internet service provider Webpass.
The company has also told at least two cities on its proposed Fiber list that it was delaying preparations to investigate less costly options, according to a report in the Mercury News earlier this week.
Seeking Approval 'Expeditiously'
"We are working to test the viability of a wireless network that relies on newly available spectrum," a Google spokesperson told us today. "The project is in early stages today, but we hope this technology can one day help deliver more abundant Internet access to consumers."
Google's application to the FCC follows that agency's approval last year of a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service for wireless services in the 3.5 GHz band of the radio spectrum. In addition to protecting military radar systems from interference, the new rule made spectrum space available for improved wireless broadband services for consumers.
According to a redacted public version of Google's application released by the FCC, the company is seeking an experimental license to test wireless broadband technologies in up to two dozen locations over the next two years. Google has asked the agency to approve that request "expeditiously."
Noting that the FCC's new Citizens Broadband Radio Service rule "opened a door for wireless innovation and bandwidth abundance," Google said in its application that the opening up of new spectrum could enable the deployment of small-cell wireless networks that could handle heavy data demands in crowded areas such as stadiums or provide better services in rural areas.
Test Sites Include Fiber Cities
"The additional spectrum that is now available in the 3.5 GHz band will also help relieve Wi-Fi congestion -- improving the experience of consumers accessing the Internet over wireless broadband," Google said in its application.
Google said it wants to test its wireless technologies in six cities in California: Atwater, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Bruno, San Francisco and San Jose. Other cities named in the application are: Boulder, Colorado; Kansas City, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; Raleigh, North Carolina; Provo, Utah; and Reston, Virginia.
The company's gigabit-speed Fiber service is already available in Kansas City and Provo and there are planned deployments in several others. Officials in two of those target cities -- Mountain View and Palo Alto -- have said Google recently told them those deployments had been delayed, according to the Mercury News.
Google is adding new Ethernet network capabilities through its acquisition of the ISP Webpass, which is set to close this summer. Founded in 2003, Webpass currently operates in San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Miami, Chicago and Boston, offering Internet services at speeds of up to 1 gigabit.