Blog Post

GoogleFi, Almost Live For Some

Live from Mountain View–A few months ago a Google exec told me a story about a city resident who took a swing at him after a public hearing on Google’s WiFi plans. Naturally, when I heard about a public WiFi training session for Mountain View residents at the Googleplex last night, I had to stop by. Well, no fisticuffs, but a few interesting tidbits.

Google’s Mountain View WiFi network is ready to go, though not open to the public, but about 100 people are already starting to receive invitations to test the service.

The invitations give directions on how to discover the SSID number of the network, which is the number that distinguishes one wireless network from another. (Anyone want to send one along to us?) Right now the SSID number is “cloaked”, so Mountain View residents can’t access it. A few of the residents were saying that they could already see the SSID number when their computer searches for a WiFi signal. That made a Google spokesperson look a bit nervous.

There were probably more than a hundred residents at the training session, and most were worried about not being able to get coverage. For a few areas of Mountain View the company could not secure space on light poles, so Google is asking residents if they wouldn’t mind putting an access point on their chimneys. They even thought about flyer-ing those areas, but said they didn’t want to be too aggressive. Google also said that “it is unlikely that a WiFi-enabled laptop or computer with a conventional WiFi card will work indoors at most locations. If you want to use the system indoors we suggest getting an extended-range WiFi modem.” So that’s another extra cost if the resident wants to rely on the network as a DSL or cable replacement.

After the 100 testers give the network a rigorous review, more trusted-testers will be invited to check it out. Google is calling it a “rolling launch.” They want to make sure that there’s as few glitches as possible for the official launch day, which they’ve only set at the “summer of 2006.” Hopefully we’ll get a chance to give it a spin pretty soon.

12 Responses to “GoogleFi, Almost Live For Some”

  1. wireless226

    WiFi is not a commercial-caliber technology. It’s public spectrum, and intrinsically has no QA. It’s fine for the confines of your home or office. Bad as a public service “offering.” This will fail miserably.

  2. Jesse Kopelman

    Re: Mesh and latency

    It all depends on how good your routing protocol is. Tropos has long claimed this to be their strong suite. The other issue is how well laid out the physical network is. If coverage is good, it seems likely that the number of hops will be low.

  3. They confirmed at this meeting that support is still by email only.

    of access points: They are roughly every 500 ft. You can easily spot them on lamp posts. They are on the horizontal cross bar and consist of two parallel one foot vertical antennae about one foot apart. If you are in a coverage hole, offer to host a node on your own rooftop. They are looking for volunteers.

    Mesh means that the signal is relayed from node to node until reaching a super node that beams back to Google. What must this do to latency? Sounds like a challenge.

    Nice name idea, Drew!

    For how to voluteer as a tester, see

  4. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out. It’s a big change for Google, which is why they are moving very tentatively and slowly. Don’t expect much beyond local service in Mountain View for a couple of years.

    btw, I think there’s a much better name for this service: GooFi.

  5. kartbart

    This will never replace DSL/Cable for a simple reason –
    it only takes one crook in the neighborhood to send out a jamming noise signal in the same spectrum and kaput – all your wifi are toast!

    Besides this, Google better get ready for Customer Service hell. Their usual way of responding via email will not work.

  6. Don’t call in your disconnect for your cable or DSL just yet. Wait till you see how the network performs under load.

    Today’s wireless mesh will be great for creating ubiquitous Internet Access, but its not going to be near the speeds and consistant, predictable reliability of wired services.

    Tropos based mesh in particular has the characteristics of giving good demo when there is no load, but degrades rapidly as more users use it due to having the same radio do mesh relay as access. And the mesh / access must all be on the same channel. So as more users come on, it increase the contention on the access AND the entire mesh that connect that cluster of APs.

  7. Great news for this Mt. View resident to hear! The less money I pay Comcast — and their gawd-awful customer service — the better. I thought that those weird transmittors I’ve been seeing around town might be GoogleFi. Now, what about Google Cable and Phone? Part of the offering, eventually?