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Summary:

Thinking about signing up for Google Fiber? Curious about those sleek black boxes Google is showing off? Here’s what each box does and what it looks like — the Network Box, a Storage box and optionally a TV Box if someone gets the TV service.

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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.

  1. Of course, GigaOm, being a PR arm of Google, will cover every minute detail of Google’s fiber network and rave over it, even though it did not do the same for FIOS or any other.

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    1. In fairness, there is so much interest in the google experiment that I think most people welcome the coverage. If and when other communities replicate the KC experience, hopefully GigaOM will provide appropriate coverage.

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    2. Actually, Brett: I think you’re more predictable than we are. ;)

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    3. Does this clown have anything to say other than “This blog/writer is a shill for Google”?

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  2. Jason Bautista Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Dave, looking that the network box combined with the screen shots you can make a couple assumptions. Google is looking to be able support direct fiber to the box (SC Fiber port) or direct ethernet. Secondly just because there is a PON interface does not mean they are using traditional GPON hardware. They could be using something like WDM-PON (as seen in south korea) or something else entirely in order to get dedicated 1 gbps to house. So the two modes of delivery would be 1. Hardened ONT at the building or to the MDU where the 1 gbps could be dedicated or shared (assuming data only) or 2. Drop cable to the building with fiber being brought in directly to the network box. Obviously this is all speculation on my part. That being said, great coverage on the rollout and hardware here Dave!

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    1. Thanks. When I asked about those details, the reps I spoke with couldn’t disclose due to the “prototype” nature. It’s all good questions and as they promote the product more, savvy consumers are going to want these details. I personally would want to know what magical devices they are going to put on the side of my house to make this all work. You and I may be exceptions though :-)

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  3. How will homes with multiple tv’s work? Will you get one tv box per tv or does one box allow transmission to multiple tv’s?

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    1. Each TV gets a TV Box according to reps. Pricing was not yet available for multiple box households.

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      1. chatting with a google rep, it is a one time fee of $80 for an extra set top box. no extra monthly fee

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    2. Shoot .. if its $80 on time shot that’s not a bad deal! And the box acts as a network access point as well. I’ll have 5 bar WiFi all through the house then! I just can’t wait till they come to Indy!

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      1. Actually, it’s $120 now per box. I too received a quote of $80 before I preregistered (yes, I’m in a fiberhood) – but now that I actually have to sign-up (after putting money down based), they have upped the price. Although it’s not a bad price, it seems a little dishonest to quote one price when people are signing up and then charge another once you get a fair amount of people in line. Maybe someone should cover the before and after changes Google has made throughout this roll-out – there are many promises that have changed.

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  4. Was the service running IPv6? DId you manage to get an IPv6 address when you connected?

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    1. Never mind, just zoomed in an saw an IPv6 div listing v6 information. :-)

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      1. That’s why I included screenshots!

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  5. How much money is Google really saving by building their own equipment? Broadband CPE is an extremely competitive market with OEM margins often in the single digits. There’s not a lot of fat to trim off here. When Google makes their own 10G Ethernet switches they are cutting out ~60% OEM margins, but that’s not the case with CPE.

    Also, Google is a small time player in this market – they’ll be buying equipment in tens of thousands – so they won’t get the most aggressive pricing (unless they make volume promises that extend way beyond Kansas City).

    Finally, if the gateway is built by Actiontec, how accurate is it to say Google is building their own equipment? I didn’t expect that they literally built the gateways, but I did expect that they would use a contract manufacturer or an ODM in order to make that claim. I suspect they just spec’d out the requirements – just like every other service provider does. How is this any different from Verizon using Actiontec for customized CPE?

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  6. Jack N Fran Farrell Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Building prototypes is best tightly controlled by the design organization. Production geniuses will get their chance next year.

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  7. My bet is that most TV boxes will be connected to the network via coax, not Ethernet or WiFi. That way you can use in-home wiring and not deal with losses that come with using WiFi. That also leaves the Ethernet port available for connecting some other piece of TV-side equipment (e.g. a game console).

    Also, the type of PON hasn’t actually been confirmed so far. My bet that we’re talking about not GPON (shared 2.488 Gbps down, shared 1.244 Gbps up) but XGPON (shared ~10 Gbps down, shared ~2.5 Gbps up). Verizon tested XGPON awhile ago (a year or two I think), so the tech is available. It just isn’t deployed much of anywhere by anyone yet.

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  8. It looks like the DVR box is made by Humax:

    http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/05/google-fiber-gfhd100-ip-set-top-box-fcc/

    and the box is running code developed by the Sage TV team that Google acquired:

    http://www.geektonic.com/2012/07/google-fiber-tvis-its-htpc-dna-sagetv.html

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  9. Marie Tillman Monday, August 6, 2012

    So thankful there is something being offered other them COMCAST! Lookout Comcast!

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  10. For those of us that have IP phone thru TWC, how about some suggestions about alternatives to be used with Google FIber.

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    1. A cell phone…?

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