Laying fiber is, it turns out, pretty expensive. That’s one reason why expansion of Google Fiber’s ambitious project to bring ultrafast internet to U.S. cities around has been placed on hold. The company has spent spent hundreds of millions of dollars laying fiber-optic cablesto bring Internet service as much as 100 times faster than average high-speed wireless to customers in six cities so far.
Another reason appears to be a growing sense that gigabit Internet can be delivered much more cheaply if the wires are ditched. Not only is it pricey to dig up streets to lay the fiber, the thinking goes, but Google Fiber often found itself negotiating with big ISPs—whose business is essentially being undermined by the project—over access to telephone poles. Super-fast Wi-Fi transmitters, on the other hand, can be mounted on the tops of tall buildings to beam Internet access directly to users.
Google isn’t alone in thinking that the future of gigabit Internet lies in cutting the cord. As we reported, Facebook is testing a similar system, as are Verizon and AT&T. A startup called Starry is also hard at work and could be the first to get super-fast wireless into people’s homes.
Google Fiber’s big move toward wireless came when it announced in June that it is buying Webpass, a company that uses wireless technology to provide homes with gigabit Internet access. The purchasing process is still ongoing, but it stands to reason that the next two cities due to get the Google Fiber treatment—San Jose, California, and Portland, Oregon—may instead get a dose of blazing-fast Internet delivered over the airwaves.