Could Google Take a Seat at the Telecom Table?


By Jimmy Rogers
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Contrary to popular belief, Google is a large, rich, mysterious company.  Oh wait, that’s extremely obvious in everything they do.  In fact, they recently demonstrated their mysteriousness by releasing Google Chrome with about one day’s notice to the internet at large.  Instead of stirring up hype or even accidentally leaking any information about their breakthrough browser (though technically the one day heads-up was in fact a leak), Google just plopped it out and watched to see if it gained any popularity.  It’s that intense secrecy, followed by an unexpected release, that makes me believe Google might just jump into another big sector: telecommunications.

This was one of Google’s April Fools jokes about a toilet based broadband system (click for the whole thing).

You see, Google has made some purchases over the years that might make you scratch your head.  For instance, they have been buying up miles and miles of “dark fiber.” That is, fiber optic cable that’s was rolled out during the first internet boom, but was never “lit up” with an actual connection to the network.  Why would anyone do this for any reason other than to create a high-speed data network?

Google argues that they can connect their massive data centers to one another with these huge quantities of fiber, but it’s not much of a stretch to imagine them including regular users in that network as well.  In fact, they’ve acted as a service provider before.  It didn’t work out, but they paired with Earthlink for a while to offer free, municipal WiFi to San Francisco.  Also, they recently invested in o3b, a company investigating satellite broadband opportunities in the developing world.  Seems like a trend to me.

The dream of a “Googlenet,” for most analysts, consists of a vast data storage network connected to a “thin client.”  The hardware would consist of only a simple processor, RAM, and a user interface of some kind.  Google would provide all of the programs and data, stored on their massive servers, while you would only have to worry about carrying your hardware, finding a connection, and trusting the Googleplex with every drop of information.  I for one welcome our Google overlords….

[Via Wired’s Epicenter Blog]


One Response to Could Google Take a Seat at the Telecom Table?

  1. It makes all kinds of sense for Google to buy up "dark" fiber.

    First, to the control cost and performance of the connection between Google large data centers. If (say) AT&T wanted to squeeze more money out of Google, and/or hobbled performance by "prioritizing" traffic, the Google folks have an option for routing traffic around AT&T. Even if you do not use the option, the fact that it exists gives you leverage … which may be crucial given AT&T recent notions.

    Second, to reduce latency. In the long run this is a very big deal. Network latency can cripple the performance of interactive applications, and web applications are getting more interactive over time.

    Do a ping and traceroute to or What is the round-trip time (latency), and how many intermediate hops? ISPs and the big carriers are (at best!) weakly motivated to reduce latency. Google is strongly motivated to reduce latency. Low latency allows their web applications to become more compelling.

    For interactive web applications, you want the fewest hops from the server to your desktop. If Google can run direct lines to the regional centers of big ISPs (Cox, Comcast, etc.) and many smaller ISPs, then Google web applications have a large advantage over their competitors for very large segments of the market.

    To me at least it seems unlikely Google would want to get into the business of covering the "last mile" to end users. That is an entirely different business from Google's core, and could foul up the relationship with the big ISPs.