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Google Plans Mysterious Wireless Network Project

Google Plans Mysterious Wireless Network Project

Google is staying hush-hush about its plans to build an experimental wireless network at its Mountain View campus, but that has only encouraged speculation about what's in the works. It's possible the project represents the tip of a very large iceberg involving several major players in the communications field, suggested ABI Research analyst Joe Hoffman.

By Richard Adhikari
01/24/13 3:05 PM PT

Google has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a new or modified radio station for an experimental radio service other than broadcast. The initial base station will be deployed on Google's campus in Mountain View, Calif.

It appears the company intends to build a dense, hyperspeed wireless network.

Application Details

The system will consist of five to 10 base stations mounted on ceilings or walls 6-8 meters above the ground. Three of the base stations will use dual-slant, two-way multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) directional antennae with a maximum gain of 17 dBi. The antennae will be mounted on walls and directed towards the interior of buildings.

The antennae for the other base stations will be will be omnidirectional. They will be mounted either on external walls of buildings at roof height, or on antenna masts extending no more than 6 meters above the rooftop.Indoor base stations will have a broadcast radius of 100-200 meters and outdoor base stations a broadcast radius of 500-1,000 meters.

In all, Google plans to test up to 50 base stations and 200 user devices during the experiment's two-year duration. The network will operate on the 2.524-2.546 GHz and 2.567-2.625 GHz frequencies.

What Google Could Be Doing

The experiment will use frequencies allocated to the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) and the Broadband Radio Service (BRS), some of which Clearwire is using for its own mobile broadband service, said consulting engineer Steven J. Crowley.

"A lot of educational institutions were granted access to [EBS and BRS] spectrum years ago," said John Byrne, a research director at IDC.

Clearwire has signed thousands of long-term leases in those bands, he told TechNewsWorld, adding, "I suspect Google is leasing access to Clearwire's spectrum, but I don't know that for sure."

Clearwire "has so much spectrum that they could not be using this [EBS and BRS] spectrum much at all," remarked Joe Hoffman, a principal analyst at ABI Research.

Google could potentially work with Clearwire to deploy strong indoor coverage without interfering with existing cellular networks, IDC's Byrne speculated.

Google declined to comment for this story.

Goin' to Kansas City

Google might also be looking to extend the reach of the high-speed fiber network it's launching in Kansas City.

Wireless technologies can't match fiber speeds, so even the fastest WiFi in a campus setting is a choke point, Byrne said. "If Google can demonstrate ultra-high-speed wireless using the EBS/BRS band, it could be a nice complement to fiber."

More Than Meets the Eye?

Google's experiment might be the tip of a very large iceberg involving several major players in the communications field, ABI's Hoffman told TechNewsWorld.

Google has ties with Clearwire -- it previously owned Clearwire stock but sold it about a year ago for a reported US$47 million. In December Sprint, one of Clearwire's major shareholders, put in a bid to purchase all of the company.

Meanwhile, Softbank is acquiring a 70 percent stake in Sprint in a $20 billion deal -- but Dish Network has asked the FCC to pause its review of the Softbank purchase until the outcome of Sprint's bid for Clearwire is settled. There's speculation that Dish is doing this to gain access to Clearwire's spectrum as it prepares to launch its own wireless service.

"Think about this: You've got Google, Clearwire spectrum, Sprint trying to buy Clearwire back, Dish trying to horn in on the business, and Softbank," Hoffman said.

"Softbank has deployed an LTE network in Japan with ... 150 to 200 small cells per kilometer, so you've got a high-performance network with low infrastructure Visit the VMware Tech Center costs," he continued. "I'd be surprised if Clearwire, Softbank, Google and Sprint haven't got something going on."


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