Google launches WiFi Network in Mountain View

10 thoughts on “Google launches WiFi Network in Mountain View”

  1. Very cool. Thanks for this informative article. VoWMesh works!

    I suppose this makes a statement for this technology. And WMesh tech is getting better too.

    I gather Google will be partnering, rather than operating, other municipal projects?

  2. Well, firstly this is great news. Just like the Open Source movement made code FREE for all developers, Google is making Internet Connectivity FREE too. So, really “all 10 thumbs up” for that :).

    So, what could be the impact of this:

    (1). Companies like T-Mobile which use Starbucks as their channel to provide Wi-Fi connections are charge for it, are going to be the biggest loser – the Starbucks down the road has so many “developers” drinking coffee and hacking away on some code :). From now on, they just have to pay for the coffee !

    (2). Although the connectivity is free, you will definitely be sharing the bandwidth – so, be cautioned about the security issues here. Your Boss may not like the idea that you are communicating your Web 2.0 hacks and ideas through this shared bandwidth – ouch !

    Otherwise, this is a great idea.

    Starbucks with Google Wi-Fi anyone? – I will be there 🙂

    — Thyaga

  3. Thyaga, as for point #2 — that is what VPN is for. One could only hope that a boss who cares about security is willing fork over the small amount of money needed to hook his employees up with VPN access. Anyway, all bandwidth is shared anyway once you get to the Internet. Bottom line: if security is an issue, use a VPN.

  4. I drove around Mtn View earlier today to test how well the Google WiFi network worked for mobile users.

    For mobile users, the WiFi network is very impressive, imho. Even with a very low-power WiFi card on my laptop, the connection was impressive. Trees seem to attenuate the signals considerably. If I could see a Google node, I could connect to it. If I didn’t see the node, the connection was weak.

    Google should not use the MAC address to authenticate users – that sounds a little bit extreme.

    Test setup
    * I hooked up my laptop to the Google WiFi network using an old Cisco Aironet 350 802.11b card.
    * I used SkypeOut to call my home phone #.
    * The laptop and I both stayed in the car.

    The drive
    * I drove a little bit on the West side of El Camino Real (around Castro Street), but mostly on El Camino Real and on the East side of El Camino on Castro Street, Shoreline Blvd, Rengstorff Avenues and streets perpendicular to those. I also drove on Central Expressway between Rengstorff Ave. and Castro St.
    * I stayed close to areas where the mesh nodes have been installed and did not venture into areas where the Google network is not yet established.

    Observations
    * Good connection: The connection was very good in the vicinity of the network nodes/access points and also fairly continuous on streets where there were sufficient street lights and network nodes and few trees. I could talk uninterrupted via Skype in these areas.
    * Trees problematic: Even when the node density was high, if the street was tree-lined, the voice packets would not go through, though the connection would not drop.
    * Works at 35mph: I drove at up to 35 mph speed and the connection wasn’t significantly different at that speed compared to slower speeds.
    * MAC address authentication?: I authenticated myself via the browser the first time I got on to the network (gave my gmail id). Thereafter, it would let me on to the network even if I removed all the cookies and restarted my computer. It seems that Google is using the MAC address of the WiFi card to authenticate me on to the network.
    * Central Expressway: The connection was poor along the Central Expressway since it has few light poles and many trees. The node density is not very high along Central Expressway (http://wifi.google.com/city/mv/apmap.html).

    Comparison with other municipal WiFi networks
    * Corpus Christi, TX: I have used the WiFi network in Corpus Christi, TX (also set up by Tropos Networks, the same company that provided equipment for Mtn View). I tested the Corpus Chrsti network last year and found it to be much spottier than the Mtn View network. Looks like Tropos is using newer equipment and has tuned the Mtn View network much better.
    * Palo Alto, CA: Firetide is setting up a WiFi mesh network for public safety purposes in 2 sq miles of Palo Alto around California Ave. The Firetide network is still being installed and tuned. So far, the Mtn View network performs slightly better than the Firetide network.

    Next steps
    * I will test with a higher powered (200 mW) WiFi card and a higher gain antenna tomorrow. My guess is that the trees won’t be an issue with that type of a setup. Watch this space.

    Conclusions
    * WiFi networks are tough to set up and maintain.
    * You need a little extra power and better antennas, but you can do lots of cool mobile applications in a properly tuned WiFi network.
    * The Mtn View Google WiFi network is well-tuned and one of the best when it comes to municipal WiFi networks.

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