Google Fiber has come to the troubling realization that citywide fiber networks are really expensive and time consuming to install. So in spite of its name, Fiber is now looking at another option: wireless.
The company intends to set up wireless transmitters throughout major cities and use them to deliver residential internet, according to The Wall Street Journal. Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas are reportedly on its list, with current plans to reach about a dozen new cities in total.
It's possible the rollout will ultimately be much larger. Regulatory filings recently revealed that Google Fiber is looking to test wireless transmitters in 24 locations around the US. It's unclear if the wireless service would offer speeds comparable to the gigabit service that Google Fiber's actual fiber lines offer; it's looking to test wireless service at frequencies slightly higher than what traditional Wi-Fi operates at. Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt has also suggested that Fiber could use much-faster millimeter wave technology.
"We hope this technology can one day help deliver more abundant internet access."
One clue as to what the service could look like lies in Webpass, an internet provider Google Fiber bought back in June. Webpass is able to provide gigabit internet wirelessly and is currently operational in about 10 cities, including San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago. Regarding the wireless tests, Google told the Financial Times that "the project is in early stages today, but we hope this technology can one day help deliver more abundant internet access to consumers."
By shifting its focus to wireless, Google Fiber intends to speed up its rollout of internet services and save money in the process. It's possible the shift in priorities was prompted by the creation of Alphabet, which has highlighted how much money Fiber (among other riskier businesses) is losing. Without the promise of being indefinitely bankrolled by Google, Fiber may be eager to expand. It's currently in only six cities after six years of work.
The Journal says that Google Fiber isn't entirely giving up on Fiber — but it is taking a new approach to fiber. It's reportedly looking into leasing existing fiber networks and is trying to convince cities and local utilities to build out networks of their own, which it could later tap into.