Google Fiber: The True Cost and Limitations of Speedy Internet

Google finally unveiled their Google Fiber project last week, as promised.  Before you get too excited about its 1000Mbps speed, it’s only be available, for the meantime, in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Google Fiber is still in its pre-register campaign wherein people from Kansas City are allowed to pre-register or sign up and entice their neighbors to sign up as well.  The neighborhoods with the most people signed up are the first to get Google Fiber.

Not a lot of people know what Google Fiber is and what it’s about.  So here’s a quick recap: Google Fiber is Google’s ultra high-speed broadband that boasts of 1000 Mb per second speed, 100 times faster than any other commercially available broadband today.  But in order for it to deliver maximum speed, it would be better if everyone in the neighborhood is using it – thus the campaign.  Right now, there are select retail partners who are one of the lucky ones to get to try Google Fiber.

Google Fiber Plan

If you only want the internet, you’d pay $70 a month and pay $300 for the construction/installation fee but the $300 would be waived with a one year contract, and comes with a whopping 1 TB of Google Drive storage.  If you want the TV+internet package, you’d pay $120 per month and the $300 but will also be waived with a two-year contract, and 2 TB DVR Storage (8 Shows can be recorded simultaneously) and 1 TB Google Drive.

Both plans will have 1000Mbps or 1Gbps of internet speed (download and upload ).  They also offer the service for free for at least seven years, but you’d have to pay the $300 construction fee, one time payment of $25 every month for a year, and you’d only get 5Mbps of internet speed (5Mbps for download, 1Mbps for upload).

Setup and Equipment

Those who pre-register would have the pleasure of requesting an exact time of when the installation would come.  Before the Google Fiber team actually installs something inside your house, they would come and install a fiber jack outside.  When everything’s ready outside, that’s the time the installation team would work setting up your home network.

If you avail of the whole package, TV+internet, you’d get the Network Box, which provides four Gigabit-Ethernet ports to share the bandwidth coming into the home.  The Network Box is crucial for delivering internet inside your home.  It also comes with a Storage Box where you can store networkd files as well as recorded shows on TV.  And the TV Box is the device that connects your TV via HDMI or component cables to the internet via Ethernet, co-axial cable or Wi-Fi.

Excited for Google Fiber

According to Wall Street Journal, entrepreneurs in Kansas City are quite excited for the project and they’re already thinking of ways on how to better utilize the service.  Take for example Tim Sylvester, founder of Integrated Roadways LLC, which makes modular pavement system for high-traffic roadways.  He plans on embedding sensors in pavement slabs to capture data about potentially hazardous roadway conditions, such as cracks, potholes and traffic jams.

A threat for ISPs?

But is Google Fiber threatening internet service providers?  Considering the 1000Mbps speed, it should, but it’s not.  Fiber projects such as Google Fiber are cost prohibitive at this stage.  But since Google is Google and they’re making billions hand over fist, they might offer Fiber at a lower cost at the risk of losing revenue.  Still, Google Fiber is expected to be priced higher than what ISPs offer, putting Fiber in its own market bracket.  ReadWriteWeb puts it this way – going fiber is not as easy as putting up posts and connecting the wires, especially in cities where you have to dig just to be able to layout your fiber cables.  In Kansas City, Google used old telephone posts to carry their cables but that would not be the case in cities where everything is underground.

“ASSIA believes that while Google Fiber has attracted much attention, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service remains fundamentally uneconomic when copper lines are already in place.  FTTH deployment still costs at least $2,500 per subscriber, and has been quoted as high as $8,000 per subscriber,” said Steve Timmerman, SVP marketing, ASSIA, Inc.

“Even utilizing creative fiber network rollout strategies like Google Fiber is doing, several expensive obstacles remain to bringing fiber to the home, including trenching, stringing cable on poles, and deploying technicians to connect fiber to the premises.  ASSIA believes that a hybrid fiber/DSL architecture is actually the best option to deliver high-speed broadband to homes.  Fiber provides the big pipe to a neighborhood cabinet, and then DSL efficiently serves individual homes through existing copper lines.  Exciting new developments in DSL, such as vectored VDSL, and/or combining multiple neighborhood DSLs to create overlapping Wi-Fi networks, will catapult DSL speeds over 100 megabits per second to match or exceed any of the Google Fiber capabilities at a much lower cost.”

Limitations of Google Fiber

Dave Greenbaum of Gigaom had the pleasure of trying Google Fiber hands on when he visited  Mud Pie Vegan Bakery in Kansas City. Mud Pie is not a randomly chosen retail partner for the launch.  It’s a strategic choice by Google as it is located a block of the University of Kansas Medical Center.

As for the Google Fiber test, Greenbaum praised it when he streamed the London 2012 Olympics in HD but noticed that it started to get glitchy when others started watching movies.  He’s not sure if it’s Google Fiber that has the problem or the WiFi.  Apparently, Wi-Fi’s 802.11n can’t handle Google Fiber’s 1Gbps.  He also noticed that Google is “using a gigabit PON based on a screenshot of an interface to the Network box. If this is the case, speed could be reduced by other users.”

Though there are minor glitches in Google Fiber, customers of Mud Pie voiced their interest in the service but there’s one problem: they are bound by contract to other service providers and would have to wait for the contract to expire before they can jump ship.  Another thing is, some are already spreading black propaganda against Google stating that if they use Google Fiber, Google would steal and use all your personal data.