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Google to trial fibre broadband network

US network promises 100x speed boost

Google is installing a fibre network in the US that will offer speeds of up to "100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1Gbps (gigabit per second), fibre-to-the-home connections".

The search engine said in a blog the network will have three main goals: to foster the development of next-generation applications, to explore new ways of deploying fibre networks and to provide a model for an open access network governed by network neutrality rules.

The search engine will offer access to the network in "a small number of trial locations" serving between 50,000 to 500,000 people.

Google's fibre network proposal is somewhat similar to its decision in 2007 to launch its own mobile operating system, in that both initiatives reflect Google's willingness to use its clout to change how carriers operate.

When Google unveiled the Android platform to the rest of the world, it was the company's way of pushing the mobile phone industry toward more openness and of fostering great application development.

Because Android is an open source platform, it can be adopted by device manufacturers for free and can provide a no-cost platform for application development.

Similarly, Google's decision to release its own Nexus One smartphone was its way of trying to divorce mobile devices from specific carriers.

Google hopes that this will lead to more carrier-agnostic devices in the future that will allow users to switch carriers without ditching their favourite mobile phones.

And now, with the construction of its experimental fibre network, Google is trying to push its vision for how the internet as a whole should operate.

With typical broadband speeds lagging behind those in countries such as South Korea and Japan, Google is seemingly trying to give US carriers a kick in the pants by saying, "If we can build a network this fast that serves large numbers of people, so can you".

And what's more, the Google network will be open access, meaning third-party service providers will be able to use it to deliver internet to their customers.

This has been called for in the UK for some time. BT recently acknowledged it has been in discussion with Ofcom for some time regarding allowing other UK ISPs to use the fibre network it's constructing, on the proviso that the other ISPs follow suit with their networks.

Whether Google will extend its trial to the UK remains to be seen. And while Google may intend for its network to serve as a model for other ISPs, both in the US and further afield, there is no guarantee they will follow the search engines lead.

After all, the success of the open source Android operating system hasn't made proprietary operating systems such as the iPhone OS or BlackBerry any less popular or profitable.

See also: Europe trails world on fibre broadband

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