Google parent company Alphabet is actively exploring gigabit Wi-Fi technology, Chairman Eric Schmidt said on a shareholder call this week. Also known as millimeter wave technology, the system would serve as a replacement for otherwise expensive infrastructure connecting Google Fiber to individual homes and businesses, a process Schmidt described as "cheaper than digging up your garden." Schmidt said he met with Larry Page and Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat on Tuesday to discuss the technology.
Alphabet has been experimenting with millimeter wave broadcasts since at least 2014, but Schmidt's comments come just months after new plans from Google's competitors to develop similar technology. Facebook plans to deploy a test version of its Terragraph Wi-Fi system in San Jose later this year, run out of the company's connectivity lab. The Starry Wi-Fi system uses similar technology, although its business model differs significantly from Terragraph.
Because of their high frequency, millimeter wave signals can carry far more information than a conventional Wi-Fi signal, but they're also more easily absorbed by walls and even atmospheric moisture. As a result, most systems use the technology as a replacement for last-mile fiber between buildings and nearby hubs, often the most expensive part of a traditional fiber network. While the underlying technology is still experimental, it could have significant benefits for Google Fiber, which recently announced plans to expand to San Francisco.