Actionable news
All posts from Actionable news

Google wants to beam wireless internet to your home

Over the past five years, Google Fiber has laid its high-speed Internet in a handful of cities and pledged to come to several more. But now it has bigger ambitions: It is working on a plan to beam wireless broadband directly into homes.

If Google can figure out how to make the technology work, that would reverberate across the broadband industry, since it would solve the expensive "last mile" problem that broadband companies usually tackle by stringing a web of wires directly into homes.

And solving that problem would be a big deal, because it would give Google's parent, Alphabet, which runs Fiber, a plausible path to build out a nationwide network that could go head to head with broadband incumbents like AT&T, Verizon, Charter and Comcast.

In an interview with Re/code, Access CEO Craig Barratt, who oversees Fiber, said the company is working on connecting wireless towers to existing fiber lines, and that it is "experimenting with a number of different wireless technologies" to make that happen. It's the first time Barratt or anyone at Alphabet has publicly talked about their interest in wireless.

They're not the only ones. Aereo founder Chet Kanojia says he wants to develop a similar system at his new company, Starry, and has promised to start testing it in Boston this summer. And yesterday Facebook announced an initiative to experiment with wireless Internet.

But Facebook says it doesn't want to build or operate the wireless networks itself. Alphabet does. Barratt says it's part of his strategy to help Access evolve from an experiment into a "real business."

Barratt, who previously ran the wireless chipset maker Atheros, joined Google in 2013 and took over the Access division inside the search giant shortly thereafter. He's one of a small group of recent Google hires to have joined Alphabet CEO Larry Page's trusted inner circle, and until now he hasn't spoken to the press.

Barratt is an engineering whiz, but not a big talker. He was cagey about specific strategies, timelines and costs for Access and Fiber, its most expensive project. Barratt wouldn't say just how far Alphabet is willing to go with its expansion, nor how much it's willing to spend to get there.

But feel free to read between the lines, and assume that Barratt wants to make something really big — which could mean that many Americans could have a new option for super-fast Internet.

Our conversation is below, edited a bit for clarity and brevity.

Mark Bergen: It has been eight months since the Alphabet reorg. How has Access changed? What can you do now that you couldn't before?

Craig Barratt: The first thing that hasn't really changed is the focus on technology and innovation — and really solving big problems to create breakthroughs. What...