Have you ever dialed 1.800.GOOG.411? Better yet, have you ever heard of it? If the answer to either question is no, you may want to add a new number to your list of contacts. You may be wondering why it is so important to have this particular number. Well, it happens to be Google’s directory assistance line. If you still aren’t seeing the benefit of etching this number into your cell phone, perhaps you’d like to know more about this service and what it offers those who use it. This is Google’s directory assistance and free call connection alternative to the traditional 411 service provided by the incumbent telephone companies. The introduction of this service, along with many other key acquisitions, have many wondering what exactly Google has in store for the future. Is the sky darkening for many wireless and Internet providers as Google could be poised to unveil a wireless phone or even launch their own network for the internet? When investigating Google’s acquisitions during these past few years, interesting signs appear; the purchase of companies that create mobile applications, aggressive lobbying of the FCC for wireless spectrum, as well as buying dark fiber by the mile. What does it all mean? Will Google soon be the purveyor of a G-phone, or will they simply slash their own Internet costs by building their own network?
So far Google has not allowed the public to see past the hazy windows of the Google labs. Based on Google’s own acquisitions—their purchasing of dark fiber, and their other takeovers—it is only a matter of time before the whole world sees exactly what they have in store. “It’s not an if, it’s a when,” says California-based technology analyst Rob Enderle. “Different parts of this are coming in at different speeds, but once they’re done what they plan to do is offer comprehensive services through their own backbone and effectively lock a lot of the traditional players out of the market. A lot of them don’t even see it coming.” When we consider Google’s recent actions, coupled with their past acquisitions, the future seems to hold more for this Internet giant.
“These guys are increasingly swirling and swiveling around the telecom space,” says Lawrence Surtees, vice-president and principal analyst of Canadian communications research for global technology consultancy IDC. “If you put all of this together, is Google a search company or a telecom network service provider or all of the above?” Google famously built its own data center by stringing together thousands of inexpensive Dell PCs with Gigabit Ethernet and developing all the software internally, as opposed to purchasing high-end proprietary solutions sold by vendors such as H-P, Sun, or IBM. Google is now doing the same thing in telecom. It's using cheap standard technologies such as dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) and Ethernet to drive costs down and develop its own private network using dark fiber coupled with the aforementioned DWDM and Ethernet. Rather than buying an expensive "solution" from an internet service provider i.e. telecom or cable company.
Google is likely working on a project to create its own global internet protocol (IP) network, a private alternative to the internet which could be controlled by the search giant. Their efforts appear to be picking up speed with each passing moment. Google has been buying up miles of unused fiber-optic cable called dark fiber, this usable network of cables was overbuilt by telephone and cable companies during the tech boom in the late nineties. Google has spent a small fortune purchasing these lines for pennies on the dollar at auctions and bankruptcy proceedings as well getting long term leases for these lines from third party vendors in order to construct its own private (IPv6) backbone between its data centers (estimates are 60 to 80 locations globally). Google is also buying shipping containers and building additional data centers within them, possibly with the aim of using them as significant nodes within the worldwide cable network. "Google hired a pair of very bright industrial designers to figure out how to cram the greatest number of CPUs, the most storage, memory and power support into a 20- or 40-foot box" Robert Cringely wrote. "The idea is to plant one of these puppies anywhere Google owns access to fiber, basically turning the entire Internet into a giant processing and storage grid." Late last year, Google purchased a 270,000sq ft telecom interconnection facility in
If the move to provide internet access was to take place on a national level, then Google would eventually seek out a company that offered “last mile” access through acquisition as opposed to partnering (via Sprint, Earthlink, etc). The “last mile” refers to connecting the fiber optic backbone to buildings. The broadband company GigaBeam (GGBM) presents an ideal acquisition, with a market cap of $27.25 million. GigaBeam specializes in the last mile with their WiFiber solution, which is a new concept in point-to-point wireless technology. The WiFiber ultra-high frequency bands allow wireless fiber-equivalent speeds with reliability similar to terrestrial fiber. WiFiber provides last mile access and backhaul, while complementing both Wi-Fi and WiMax. This could enable faster communication capacity, delivery, and cost less than previously possible. With the addition of WiFiber to Google’s information backbone, many customers would have access to video, data, or voice at prices once unimaginable. Gigabeam’s strategy also addresses the common last mile problem which represents the biggest hurdle for any company challenging the incumbent telephone and cable monopoly. GigaBeam would fit perfectly with Google, utilizing the miles of dark fiber in Google’s network, and allowing Google to offer a true full scale internet pipe straight to the consumers’ home.
Google has been experimenting in WiFi in the city of Mountain View, California where they have mounted networking equipment to public utility poles in the city. Google is also partnering with Earthlink to try to get WiFi into the city of San Francisco. In the partnership between Google and EarthLink to provide WiFi access in San Francisco, EarthLink would provide wireless service for 16 years and Google would be the sole Internet provider or ISP. Google would profit by having their search engine, maps, and other online applications available to users through the EarthLink pages. Even though this test-bed scenario has since faltered due to price and politics with the city of San Francisco, Google is still looking to offer free wireless access to other cities across North America and possibly Europe. Suppose this secure WiFi solution becomes popular, the Google servers will see a huge surge in the amount of data traffic they currently process. It could be the reason for their interest in the miles of dark fiber, or it could be a reason to build their own, private network backbone?
Continues in Goog-411, Part II