Google’s cheap, high-speed Fiber network is the internet we all need, but very few actually get. A lot of that has to do with the cost of running fiber-optic under streets and to houses, which involves a lot of messy manual labor.
One solution Google is looking at, according to Alphabet chairperson Eric Schmidt, is millimeter-wave wireless signals to cover the “last mile” to customers’ houses.
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Millimeter-wave transmission works a lot like Wi-Fi, but at a much higher frequency. This lets the signal car much more data (meaning faster internet), but it mostly works on line-of-sight. That means it wouldn’t work well for Wi-Fi in your house or as a substitute for cell networks, but it’s perfect for carrying a signal half a mile from a cable junction to a receiver on top of your house.
It’s far from a novel idea: back in 2012, a startup called WiSpire in the UK started mounting transmitters to church spires in order to connect individual houses using millimeter-wave transmission (albeit, resulting in far slower internet than proposed by Google).
There’s significant technical hurdles to work around, but the end result could be very interesting indeed. Having to run cables into houses to supply internet is one of the more archaic leftovers from the copper phone-line era. If cabling — and the heinous installation fees that seem to come with wired internet — could be ditched in favour of a small antenna supplying cheap gigabit internet, Google will have done something truly good for humanity.