Google Fiber while not covering as many premises as many had hoped for looks set to pause its roll-out. Whether pause is actually talk for just completing what we are committed to and a switch to a wireless delivery method, or a real pause before they hit the ground running in another year or two is a big unknown. The Google Fiber official blog carries a post by Craig Barratt, CEO of Access who is now stepping down but remaining in advisory role.
The roll out has delivered to various fibrehoods in some nine US cities and another four will see deployment happen, and there will be some job losses suggesting this is not going to be just a short pause but is a change in direction.
The signals have been out there for some time that Google may be switching to a fibre/wireless hybrid roll-out and given the exciting technology opportunities that exist with 5G and other wireless tech this is hardly a surprise.
While the number of customers and exact footprint is harder to ascertain than what BT is up to in the UK, it is clear that in the cities where service has arrived competitors have stepped up their game, and the service is very much appreciated. What is not clear is the split between the $300 up front but then free basic service and the full Gigabit, some indicators suggest the basic service is popular with landlords but a little disappointing for renters as there is no simple way to unlock the Gigabit potential of the glass to the property while renting.
Those with long memories may recall that the BT Group originally was going to roll-out much more FTTP when it started its fibre roll-outs, but once the timescale for installed FTTP was translated into labour costs and VDSL2 was seen to be performing better than originally thought a seismic shift took place and many areas got VDSL2 instead of FTTP. Perhaps Google has hit some of the same issues, i.e. some areas are nice and simple to roll-out in, but others take significantly longer or lots of time and money is wasted on negotiations to get access to infrastructure and as alternate technologies that allow whole streets and apartment blocks to be passed much quicker and cheaper arrive they may be the preferred method for roll-out. In the case of BT this is the new G.fast technology and for Google it is believed to be wireless technology.
Perhaps the problem is that nothing in the fibre roll-out is particularly challenging for Google, just time consuming and they feel its time to move onto the next technology challenge.