Google is moving into broadband. And, as is the company’s way, it’s not doing things by halves. It’s offering a quite ridiculous 1Gbit/sec, TV services, and a terabyte of cloud storage, all under the name of Google Fiber.
It’s firing a warning shot across the bow of Apple, Comcast, Virgin Media, Sky, BT, and anyone else with designs on your lounge. The phrase ‘game changer’ is used way too much nowadays, but in this case we feel it’s justified.
Google Fiber promises to be a different kind of internet. And with 1Gbit/sec download speeds, it does seem miles ahead of the competition. You can see just how much faster it’ll be than your current broadband by clicking the ‘Race Against Fiber’ button on the website. Downloading an HD movie, game, or 100 songs will all take just three seconds each over Fiber, compared to around a minute on a 50Mbit/sec connection.
There’s no option to compare it with 100Mbit/sec, which Virgin Media offers. And downloading is unlikely to hit these top speeds all the time. But still, you get the point.
Here’s a cute video to show off Fiber’s speeds.
Next-gen Google TV
The repercussions go way further than quick downloads. Google TV could get the boost it needs, when coupled with these kinds of speeds. Just think of how many channels you could pack into that kind of bandwidth. Google says you’ll be able to record eight TV shows at a time, and store up to 500 hours of HD programming. That makes most set-top boxes, with their three tuners letting you watch a show and record two others simultaneously, look like relics from another age.
But it’s not all about speed. Google is ramping up the usability too, letting you use your smartphone or tablet as a remote control (just like you’ll be able to do with Sky’s updated app later this summer). It’ll also use the voice-recognition skills from its revamped Google Voice search to let you control it. So it’s clearly got Apple’s fabled TV set in its sights, offering its own version of Siri for spoken controls.
And now the bad news. It’s only planned to roll out in one city in the US at the moment – Kansas City, Missouri. Installations should start in September. Google hopes to launch it in other cities later, and hopefully it’ll come to these shores before too long.
It’ll need the support of the community to launch in your area, as well. If you want the service, you’ll need about 50 neighbours to be on board in order to make the area eligible for installation, according to Google. But considering the price Google is offering the services at, this shouldn’t be too much trouble.
Here’s the real kicker: Google is offering 1Gbit/sec broadband, a TV package, and a terabyte of cloud storage for $120 a month. That’s about £76 – not cheap, but pretty great value considering Sky alone would set you back over £30 a month for the basic package.
And broadband is much more expensive in the States anyway; put it up against Comcast and it’s no comparison. Comcast starts at $69.99 a month, and that’s for 20Mbit/sec, which is a fraction of the speed Google Fiber reaches. So it’s really not that expensive comparatively. You’ll get a free Nexus 7 if you go for the TV option, too. Which isn’t really an incentive on its own, but a nice bonus.
Google is also offering an internet-only deal for $70 (£45) a month for the 1Gbit/sec broadband.
While this is a big move by Google, taking it into new areas, it makes sense. It’s bringing together all its services, connecting your Android devices with your TV, and properly bringing the internet into the lounge in a way ‘smart TVs’ have only dreamed of. That mysterious Nexus Q device seems to make a lot more sense now as well.
Google really looks like it means business with this. And it could be disastrous for Apple’s fabled TV set.
Apple’s TV will no doubt be a doddle to use, but it’s only going to be as smooth as your broadband connection. If Google’s piping you steaming hot telly shows in no time, then it’s really no contest. And think about the difference in business models.
A TV is a big investment. They’re huge and expensive, and a pain to have delivered. Most families only get a new one when the old one conks out. So Apple has quite a task trying to convince people to upgrade just because of its fancy interface.
Experts agree Google’s entry into the cable market will shake up the industry. In the US, cable prices have doubled every 12 months for 10 years. So Google Fiber could usher in a new generation of much-needed cut-price services.
It’s early days yet, but if Google can pull this off, it could change how we watch TV forever. One thing’s for certain, with both Google and Apple poised to fight over your lounge, we’re on the brink of a new era in TV.