Google Fiber buys Webpass to speed up broadband deployment in cities

Google Fiber will soon have a new tool in its toolbox to bring ultrafast 1Gbps broadband service to millions of people in cities throughout the US.

On Wednesday, Webpass, an internet service provider that uses point-to-point wireless to deliver high-speed broadband to apartment buildings and businesses, said it was being bought by Google Fiber for an undisclosed amount. Neither company has disclosed details of the transaction, but the deal is expected to close this summer after regulatory approval.

Webpass uses a combination of rooftop wireless networks connected to high-speed fiber connections to deliver broadband connections that it claims can be as fast as 1 gigabit per second. The company is already operating in five major markets, including the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Miami, Chicago and Boston. Google Fiber, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, revealed earlier this year that it plans to deploy its 1Gbps broadband service in San Francisco, and it has already listed Chicago and San Diego as potential future cities. The acquisition of Webpass should help accelerate those plans and could help Fiber push into other cities.

“By joining forces, we can accelerate the deployment of superfast internet connections for customers across the US,” Webpass President Charles Barr said in a blog post announcing the deal. “Webpass will remain focused on rapid deployment of high-speed internet connections for residential and commercial buildings, primarily using point-to-point wireless.”

Since 2010 when Google first announced plans to build a fiber network, the company has challenged phone and cable operators to deploy affordable ultrahigh-speed broadband. But the build-out has been relatively slow. Google started in Kansas City and now offers service in two other cities, Austin and Provo, Utah. It’s building service in Nashville and Atlanta, and has several other cities on its road map.

Building a fiber-based network is expensive and time consuming. Streets need to be dug up to lay the fiber infrastructure. By contrast, point-to-point wireless connections that use high-frequency spectrum or airwaves can deliver high-speed access at a fraction of the cost, because all that’s needed are radios and receivers mounted atop buildings. These networks can be set up within days rather than the weeks and months often required with a fiber deployment.

Though there are technical challenges associated with these wireless networks, they’ve been used for years to deliver dedicated data connections to businesses in cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Webpass is among a growing list of providers extending this technology to residential customers. Like Google Fiber, it’s offering high-speed service at affordable prices, selling a 100Mbps to 1Gbps service for $60 a month. Google Fiber’s 1Gbps broadband offer is $70 a month.

Barr said the news is good for its existing customers because the companies share a similar vision of offering a “high quality internet connection to as many people as possible.”

“Google Fiber’s resources will enable Webpass to grow faster and reach many more customers than we could as a standalone company,” Barr said.

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