There have been rumors floating around about cutbacks and potential freezes of Google Fiber. The company has announced that it is not moving forward in some parts of the business until it has had a chance to understand and integrate Fixed Wireless as an alternative last mile architecture.
Separately, Google is trying to get Nashville to loosen up the rules for utility pole attachment. This is all part of this whole picture and I want to talk a bit today about what Google is facing.
When you want to use the utility easements that a municipality has, there are rules. These rules are different for every community. Sometimes there are height restrictions. Sometimes you have to put shrubs around structures to hide them. Wireless antennas have to look like trees or other natural elements. There might be coverage obligations. In other words, you can’t just cherry pick the nice neighborhoods and deliver service. You have to do it to all of them. When Google Fiber started, it was trying to work around all of these challenges. It was attempting to use its cachet to get cities to waive many of the social obligations that other service providers have to abide by. You can imagine that these workarounds did not make the other service providers happy.
This is only going to get worse. The problem is coming with 5G Wireless technology and small wireless cells. You have to remember Shannon and Nyquist still rule the roost in data transmission capacity. The basic concept is that the higher the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) in any channel the more information can be passed through it. Fiber Optics has the highest SNR, so it has the best capacity. Below Fiber you have (in order) coaxial cable, twisted pair copper, and lastly wireless. There has been a lot of work done to improve wireless capacity through smart control and use of antennas. We can’t really increase the signal more (do you really want a higher power microwave transmitter next to your brain?). So, the best thing we can do is reduce the noise. The easiest way to do this is to reduce the distance between transmitter and receiver. So, there is a lot of thinking around how to deploy smaller cell sites to provide better quality wireless coverage.
But where do you put them? I know of some work to potentially put them in street lights. But there will be a lot of work to build a bandwidth distribution network to get what we want out of this. So, expect to hear more in the future about the use of rights of way and utility easements. This will be on top of all the other things that impact how networks get built.
Have a great Labor Day Holiday!
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