Google may not be able to sell businesses a broadband connection outside of its handful of fiber cities, but it could supply the final wireless link to millions of restaurants, gyms and doctors’ offices, according to a new report by The Information.
According to The Information’s Amir Efrati, Google plans to sell Wi-Fi gear at steep discounts to businesses in exchange for managing their applications in its cloud and permission to extend wireless internet access to other Google customers. If the report is true, this could be part of a larger plan by Google to circumvent mobile carriers and use Wi-Fi to connect more of its customers to its services on the go.
Key to strategy, according to Efrati, is the emerging technology Hotspot 2.0, which allows Wi-Fi networks to behave more like cellular networks. With Hotspot 2.0, Google could use these businesses’ Wi-Fi access points to offer a national wireless data network that any Google user could automatically and securely log into whenever they were in range.
Google is already experimenting with Wi-Fi in many ways. It recently replaced AT&T as the wireless ISP behind the Wi-Fi networks in Starbucks coffee shops, and it’s been building free (ad-supported) Wi-Fi networks in San Francisco parks. Eight years ago, it built a metro Wi-Fi network covering its hometown of Mountain View.
But what’s most interesting is the technical development work it’s been doing in wireless. Over the last couple of years, Gigaom has spotted experimental license applications from Google to test new gigabit Wi-Fi technologies and even build what looks to be a small cell network similar to those mobile carriers have started deploying.