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Google Fiber to expand tests of gigabit-speed wireless broadband

Google Fiber plans to expand tests of wireless broadband to accelerate the roll-out of low-cost superfast internet across the US

With superfast fibre broadband networks deployed in six US cities and planned in 17 more, Alphabet’s broadband division Google Fiber is switching its focus to gigabit-speed wireless internet.

The company plans to test its wireless systems in 24 US locations, according to a redacted public version of an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and has delayed optical fibre deployments in Mountain View and Palo Alto, according The San Jose Mercury News.

The test could be the first step in rolling out wireless broadband throughout the US in an attempt to speed up Google Fiber’s initiative to provide superfast and low-cost internet nationwide.

The company started testing experimental wireless broadband transmitters using the 3.5-GHz band in Kansas City in April 2016. Now, it wants to expand that to at least 12 more cities operating between the 3.4 and 3.8 GHz band because wireless can be deployed faster and at lower cost than laying optical fibre connection to the home of every customer.

The switch to using a combination of fibre and wireless will cut installation time from around three months down to a few hours, according to Bloomberg.

“We are working to test the viability of a wireless network that relies on newly available spectrum,” a spokesperson told Business Insider. “We hope this technology can one day help deliver more abundant internet access to consumers.”

The shift in focus to wireless broadband comes hard on the heels of Google Fiber’s announcement in June 2016 that it was to acquire San Francisco-based wireless internet service provider Webpass.

At Alphabet’s quarterly shareholder meeting in June 2016, chairman Eric Schmidt spoke about the company’s exploratory steps towards radios capable of transmitting internet traffic at “gigabit per second” speed, according to Digital Trends.

Read more about Google Fiber

While wireless will enable Google Fiber to reach customers where fibre is too costly and will cut deployment times and costs, industry commentators said the company faces technical challenges.

This is because it is using millimetre wave technology, which is limited in range, affected by weather and physical obstacles, and relies on placing equipment on top of buildings and outside the windows of customers.

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