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2016-10-28

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Google Fiber winds back planned roll-out

Google Fiber, the project launched some five years ago to bring Fibre-to-the-Home to American cities, has decided to take a breather. 

Announcing his own departure from the project, Google Fiber chief executive Craig Barrett said the roll-out in many US cities would be “paused” although it would go ahead in areas where it had already begun. 

The announcement follows reports some months ago that the project was under scrutiny for failing to meet targets. At the end of 2014 Google Fiber was said to have about 200,000 subscribers, well short of its 5 year target of 5 million. 

The roll-out has also been subject to considerable delays and, it would seem cost pressures, with Barrett said to have been told earlier this year to cut staff numbers by 50%. 

In his farewell blog, Barrett indicated that Google Fibre would now be exploring “new technology and deployment methods” to ensure that the company stayed “ahead of the curve” in the delivery of superfast broadband.

That’s probably code for wireless options. 

Last month Google filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test wireless broadband in 24 locations across the US using the 3.5Ghz band, favoured for superfast mobile broadband services. 

And in June it also acquired WebPass, a small ISP that delivers point- to –point high-speed wireless broadband to residential buildings and businesses.

Whether fixed or mobile, wireless broadband is evolving rapidly and is providing an alternative “last mile” access technology that is both cheaper and easier to deploy than new fibre platforms, at least in “brownfield” sites.

Wireline broadband operators such as Australia’s NBN are yet to feel the full force of this wireless challenge, but with 5G just around the corner that challenge is certainly coming.

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