Google on Wednesday launched a WiFi network in its hometown of Mountain View, Calif. The search giant invested about US$1 million to serve the 11.5-square-mile city just 35 miles south of San Francisco.
Radios hanging on lamp posts throughout the city are now broadcasting a “GoogleWiFi” wireless (802.11b/g) signal that brings free wireless Internet access to the city’s residents, businesses and visitors.
“This network is a way for us to give back to and engage with the community where our headquarters are,” said Google Product Manager Minnie Ingersol, noting that Google partnered with local governments, neighborhood associations, schools and the library to bring WiFi to Mountain View.
Anyone with a laptop or other wireless-enabled device and a Web browser can get online; Mountain View users can select the “GoogleWiFi” signal, open their Web browser and sign in with a free Google Account.
While Google has installed WiFi access points inside the city’s public library to ensure good coverage throughout the building, the search giant said it is unlikely that a WiFi-enabled laptop or a computer with a conventional WiFi card will work indoors in most other locations.
Google has set maximum upload and download speeds at 1 Mbps, which is comparable to a DSL line and slightly slower than a high-speed cable connection. The data transfer rate, the company added, will depend on the distance between the Google WiFi node and the device.
Besides community goodwill, Google has a second goal for the WiFi installation: to promote alternative access technologies by using Mountain View as an example for organizations considering investments in the WiFi arena.
“We think successful mesh wireless deployments will promote competition, create cheaper access alternatives, and, if done correctly, foster open, standards-compliant platforms for content and service providers to showcase their applications without the hassle of the traditional walled-garden approach,” Ingersol said.
Cities Going WiFi
Mountain View is not the first city to go WiFi. Orlando, Fla., suburb St. Cloud launched a free WiFi network earlier this year. Similar WiFi networks are underway in Philadelphia, Chicago and Manhattan.
Craig Settles, president of Successful.com and an independent WiFi analyst in California, sees the Google deployment as a positive showcase designed to build confidence in citywide WiFi deployments. His concern, however, is that cities are now looking to get similar free deployments — and that’s not realistic.
Sponsorships, though, may produce more citywide WiFi deployments in the years ahead, Settles told TechNewsWorld.
“If you look at Nokia sponsoring the build out of WiFi networks in the major parts of Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs, what you see is the concept of corporate sponsorship of networks,” Settles noted. “Rather than this idea of free or ad-supported networks, which I don’t think is possible, for certain companies the value of sponsorship is great enough that they might go that route.”