Google’s Fiber organization is asking the FCC for the ability to test a residential gateway that has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It’s likely Google is asking the FCC for an experimental licence to test upcoming 802.11ac gigabit Wi-Fi technology inside residential gateways.
However, those longing for innovation in broadband here in the U.S. can hope that there are bigger plans in the works. With a fiber to the home network and gigabit Wi-Fi Google could take a cue from the recent launches in France and in the U.S. of mobile networks that lean heavily on Wi-Fi. Then Google could build a network that offers truly ubiquitous broadband within the confines of Palo Alto, Calif., and maybe later in Kansas City.
Google Fiber seeks to test Bluetooth and Wi-Fi protocols and performance (including coordination of Wi-Fi channels between devices and in the presence of foreign signals) within an integrated access point as part of a fiber residential gateway. This line of testing will reveal real world engineering issues and reliability. The planned testing is not directed at evaluating the radio frequency characteristics of the equipment (which are known), but rather at the throughput and stability of the home networks that will support the equipment, as well as its basic functionality.
Right now, the current Wi-Fi technology (802.11n) tops out 600 Mbps, which means Wi-Fi becomes the bottleneck if you have a gigabit network coming into your home. 802.11ac’s multi-gigabit speeds would go a long way to opening up that pipe. But while chip companies have produced silicon for the next generation Wi-Fi standard, the standard itself isn’t ratified, nor are those chips in any real products that have passed through the FCC’s approval process. This application may be one of the first application for a commercial next-gen Wi-Fi device, although Google asked the FCC to keep many of the details confidential.
Of course, such powerful Wi-Fi and a fiber-to-the-home network opens up many more possibilities than mere super-fast home networking. Google could use its residential gateways and the fiber connection to blanket an entire town with incredibly fast Wi-Fi (and Bluetooth) networks. These technologies would give Google the tools to make broadband truly ubiquitous both inside and outside homes, which is a goal I’d love to see.