Google Fiber Falling Short Of Hype As Internet Giant Reportedly Considers Switch To Wireless Strategy

Six years after it aggressively launched Google Fiber, the company could be feeling the effects of the high price tag and slow deployment process associated with rolling out fiber-optic networks.

Those difficulties, coupled with competing carriers that are thwarting Google's efforts in certain geographies, are reportedly leading Google to pursue wireless delivery instead, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal.

Google Fiber has recently run into some deployment difficulties, which has led to lowered expectations in the channel. While some solution providers saw Google Fiber as a potential threat to the incumbent carrier crowd and welcomed the prospect of having more service providers to choose from, they also believe that Google's recent struggles prove that the hype around Google Fiber could have been overstated.

[Related: Google Battles AT&T, Comcast Over Fiber Rollout In Nashville, Reportedly Plans To Cut Fiber Staff In Half]

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"There was so much expectation, and they just didn't handle the entire project well at all," said one solution provider executive who requested anonymity. "It's almost like they came out and expected everyone to just sign up, but when people were reluctant, they were a little bit shocked."

"I don't have very much faith in Google's ability to execute on a large scale [with fiber]," said Quy Nguyen, CEO of Allyance Communications, a telecommunications and hosting solution provider.

Nguyen said customers are asking about Google Fiber, but its limited geographic presence often immediately takes it out of the running as a viable option for customers, or a sales opportunity for Allyance.

In 2015, Google listed Irvine, Calif. – the headquarters of Allyance Communications -- as a possible Google Fiber city, but that never materialized, Nguyen said.

"We were waiting for it and highly anticipated a deployment because [Google Fiber] speeds are supposed to be greater than what other carriers are offering," he said.

Google declined CRN's request for comment on its wireless strategy. But it has publicly lamented the slow pace of fiber deployments it has faced in certain geographies due to competing providers in the same footprint. Google went head-to-head with existing providers in two states in August alone.

No agreement was reached in Nashville last week between Google and incumbent carriers AT&T and Comcast when Google sought to amend the city's "make-ready" rule. The rule states that new service providers must alert existing service providers of its deployment plans so these providers can prepare utility poles for new wiring. Google said the rule was holding up the process of fiber rollouts to new areas.

Google fought the same battle with AT&T in Louisville, Ky., and ultimately won the dispute, but AT&T has since filed a lawsuit against the city over the new ordinance.

The conflict between Google and existing service providers makes sense, Nguyen said.

"As a consumer of carrier services, I might not like it, but I get it," he said. "If I was a carrier, why would I let this massive company with lots of resources and capital into my industry where they are going to provide higher bandwidth at a cheaper price, which will make me shave my own margins down?"

Google's possible plans to pursue wireless could be a sign that it's starting to feel pressure from the competition, as well as the difficulty associated with rolling out fiber-optic networks in new geographies, according to the anonymous channel partner.

"I don't think they will bail on Google Fiber entirely, but they are going to have to do something. I think wireless is a good fallback for them," the executive said.

In June, Google acquired Webpass, a San Francisco-based internet provider that offers gigabit internet speeds in five major U.S. cities. The industry largely believed that the acquisition would extend Google Fiber's reach within key markets, including Boston, Chicago and Miami, but Webpass technology could also be used to boost Google's wireless Internet capabilities. Webpass technology can help Google deliver gigabit Internet without wires to select locations.

The Wall Street Journal report notes that Google doesn't plan to abandon its fiber strategy completely, and is looking into leasing existing fiber networks in specific geographies.

"We’re continuing to work with city leaders to explore the possibility of bringing Google Fiber to many cities. This means deploying the latest technologies in alignment with our product road map, while understanding local considerations and challenges, which takes time," Google said in a written statement last month to the Wall Street Journal.