Partners Weigh In On Google Fiber Impact As The Telecom Industry Arms Itself For Disruption

Google has become aggressive in the fiber arena, and partners say its latest plans for rapid geographic expansion could start eating the incumbent telecommunication providers' lunches.

Google last week acquired Webpass, a San Francisco-based internet provider that offers gigabit internet speeds in five major U.S. cities. The acquisition will help Google Fiber expand its geographic reach more quickly in key markets, including Boston, Chicago, Miami and San Diego.

Webpass will also give Google's wireless internet capabilities a boost. The Webpass technology can help Google deliver internet to properties without wires, a capability that most of the large incumbent carriers don't have.

[Related: Solution Providers Poised To Pounce On Gigabit Internet Opportunities]

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Carriers should absolutely be concerned about Google Fiber’s impact in the fiber space, according to Vince Bradley, CEO of WTG, a master agent that partners with the large carriers and is in talks to partner with Google.

Agent partners are already asking Malibu, Calif.-based WTG about Google Fiber, primarily as a backup option to primary networks, Bradley said.

"It will likely take quite some time, but once [Google] penetrates markets, they will be very disruptive," he said.

Google Fiber, which is a part of Google's/Alphabet's Access Group, has a beta channel program in place with a select group of managed service providers. But the internet giant may be looking to open up its program to more partners soon. Google last week posted an open channel account manager position to its Google+ page. The latest position calls for the channel manager to work with IT partners to grow the Google Fiber subscription base.

Until now, Google has been enlarging its fiber footprint at a relatively slow pace. Now that the internet giant is pushing its fiber network strategy to the front burner, many of the large, incumbent carriers seem to be feeling the heat and are taking action to compete against Google with their own fiber-based services, partners said.

"It would make sense that the carriers would move faster in light of the acquisition," WTG's Bradley said. "Since Google typically goes to market pretty quickly, the carriers will need to act swiftly to keep their business flowing."

AT&T is taking its fiber-based internet strategy up a notch. The Dallas-based carrier Monday revealed that it is planning a massive rollout of its AT&T Business Fiber service to a number of markets in Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Oklahoma.

The carrier added that it plans to further extend its Business Fiber offering -- a service that provides gigabit internet speeds -- to additional cities in which Google Fiber has or will also have a presence, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego as well as Miami and Louisville, Ky.

Comcast Business last week said it will be committing more than $9 million to a major fiber expansion in Virginia, which will reach more than 3,000 businesses, according to the Philadelphia-based carrier. Faster that Google Fiber in some locations, Comcast's Business Ethernet service can deliver up to 100 Gbps of network, and is in 18 U.S. markets.

Google Fiber could also give Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon and Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink a run for their money. However, Verizon's February acquisition of Herndon, Va.-based XO Communications' fiber-based IP and Ethernet networks will allow Verizon to reach into 40 more U.S. markets with 1.2 million fiber miles. CenturyLink, for its part, said Tuesday that it too is growing the footprint of its business fiber service, which boasts 1Gbps broadband speeds in Grand Junction, Colo.

The impact to the channel is yet to be seen, but some partners -- such as Andrew Gregoire, CEO of Fairhaven, Mass.-based solution provider ACE Consulting Group -- said they don't believe Google Fiber will immediately threaten fiber sales for the incumbent providers.

Google Fiber -- available in some markets in six states: Georgia, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Utah -- is a relatively new service with a limited geographic reach.

"I haven't had one business customer ask about Google Fiber yet," Gregoire said. "I don't see [Google Fiber] making a significant impact in the small business space."

ACE Consulting is a partner with large carriers including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. The solution provider builds IT, voice, data and cloud solutions for its business customers, based on the client's needs as well as the geographical availability of carriers near the client.

Because Google Fiber still has a small footprint compared with the fiber footprints of other providers, as well as a limited channel presence on the fiber side, Google Fiber won't be an option for many businesses customers right now, Gregoire said.

"For us, it's based on the territory and any special requests from clients," Gregoire said. "Customers let us know what they are looking for and we put the solution in front of them. If a provider's geographical presence is limited, we usually take them out of the equation."