Residents of Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Mo. are signing up to pre-register for Google Fiber to their homes and the most popular areas will get the service first. According to Azhar Hashem, head of marketing for Google Fiber, subscribers who pre-register to get a gigabit for $70 a month (or gigabit Internet and plus TV for $120) will be able to request an exact time instead of a window and will have the ability to track the installer with near real-time updates (10 minute intervals).
Before the appointment the installer will come to the home and install a fiber jack outside but despite the title of this post, that outside equipment was not available for viewing, and details were not provided.
Google estimates average installs should take about three hours, and requires wiring the home with Ethernet. The experience sounds very similar to getting AT&T Uverse. A network box is installed and Ethernet is run to selected rooms.
The Network Box
The Network Box is a residential gateway that provides four Gigabit-Ethernet ports to share the bandwidth coming into the home. This device is required for the service, and customers receive a public IP; the gateway will serve as a router. The gateway’s final user interface was not shown, so questions about firewalls, port-mapping, and DMZ aren’t yet known. The service has no bandwidth cap or overage fees.
I was able to view a publicly accessible version of the gateway’s UI at one of the local businesses that is demoing Google Fiber. As you can see, the interface is custom designed and a bit raw, which is understandable since the project is still not live. These screen shots show that the device is most likely made by Actiontec for Google. Actiontec makes residential gateways for Verizon’sFiOS fiber-to-the-home service, so going with Actiontec is a logical choice. Also these screen shots show a Wide area network PON (passive optical network) which most likely indicates a Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON). In these pictures identifying information has been blacked out
The Storage Box
The next component of the residential experience is the Storage Box which stores network files as well as saved TV programs on a 2-terabyte hard drive. So far, Google’s Internet-only residential plan doesn’t include a Storage Box.
A Storage Box will act as network attached storage (NAS) allowing subscribers to share data anywhere on their network using a “standard interface.” Hashem did not have the details on this interface since, again, all aspects of the Google Fiber Project are currently in prototype mode and the device is not in production. Mac users will be comforted knowing it’s “fully” compatible with Time Machine according to Hashem, and will allow you to share a hard drive across the network. I am curious as to how Google will support Time Machine as Time Machine doesn’t work with many NAS devices.
The TV Box
Finally, the TV Box is what attaches to your TV via HDMI or component cables, and to your network via Ethernet, co-axial cable or Wi-Fi. Similar to an Apple TV, the device does not have any storage space and uses Storage Box for DVR functionality. The UI for the TV DVR (which can record up to 8 shows at once) is unremarkable, and again I could not take pictures of the interface because they were “pre-production.”
The Nexus 7 tablet interface mimicked the onscreen experience and allowed for searching of contents across both TV networks and services like Netflix. The Nexus 7 will also stream any content from the Storage Box, while a USB interface on both the Storage Box and the TV box allows for streaming of stored video content.
Because of Apple’s DRM, video content purchased from iTunes could not be played directly through the TV Box. In addition to the Nexus tablet, a “traditional” style remote is also included for those that don’t want to use the tablet. Additional iOS and Android applications will soon be available for remote management as well as a web interface to the TV Box.
Unfortunately, streaming content to these devices outside the home isn’t currently supported. When necessary, the TV box acts as a wireless repeater retransmitting your home’s Wi-Fi network, though Google wasn’t clear if the box was connected via Wi-Fi if it could retransmit that signal or could only do the retransmission when connected via Ethernet. The TV Box also has a Bluetooth radio to support connections to wireless headsets and keyboards.
Potential and current subscribers will receive customer support at the Google Fiber Space as well as through a call center, but as with many other issues, the details have yet to be determined.
This is what the Google Fiber setup experience will be for residential subscribers: a few hours of an install along with (possibly) three pieces of equipment that will give users some of the fastest internet in the country and a wide array of TV options.