Google launches WiFi Network in Mountain View

Less than a year after the search engine giant said that it would unwire its hometown of Mountain View, California, GoogleFi is now open for packets.

The Mountain View network that cost nearly a million dollars to build went live at 9pm PST today. In order to use the network, the users will need a Google login, and those who don’t have Google ID, will be given a chance to sign up for the service, company officials said in an interview.

Chris Sacca, Head of Special Initiatives at Google says that at present the company is offering a one-megabit per second connection for everyone, and will tweak the capacity depending on how people use the network. For instance if a lot of people are watching online videos, then the capacity might get a booster shot.

GigaOM writer Katie Fehrenbacher has been on the story and has tested the network, and gives the network two thumbs up. She was able to make Skype and SIP calls using the network, and found connectivity good in most places. (She is busy tracking another story today, so I am picking up the pieces.) “We have had a lot of incoming requests for trying out the network, and we felt it was ready to go live,” says Sacca. The service is being launched ahead of the schedule. “We had promised it by end of the summer, but we are ready.”

The network, which covers 11.5 square miles, features 380 access points, all supplied by Tropos Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company. One in six access points is a gateway by Tel Aviv-based Alvarion. There are three bandwidth aggregation points in the network that are connected to GooglePlex using point-to-point gear from GigaBeam, an equipment vendor based in Herndon, Virginia. The network was designed by Google engineers and installed by WFI, a San Diego-based network builder.

When pressed about Google’s future plans, Sacca said the company has no national ambitions. “There are 300 RFPs out there for city wireless networks, and we are not participating in one of them,” he said. For instance, the company is not participating in the Smart Valley project, which will provide wireless across a major swath of Silicon Valley Bay Area. San Francisco wireless network however is part of the plan.

Google, Sacca said just wanted to be a catalyst, just like it wants to catalyze the location-based services. The company is working closely with start-ups such as Flagr and Meetro. Sacca said the goal was to turn Mountain View into a large-scale test bed for various WiFi enabled devices that are coming to market. For instance, the makers of Pepper Pad, a web-tablet device that is expected to come to market soon will be giving out devices for tests in Mountain View.