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Friday, July 14, 2006

Free Google Wi-Fi being beta tested

From GigaOm:

"Google’s Mountain View WiFi network is ready to go, though not open to the public, but about 100 people are already starting to receive invitations to test the service.

The invitations give directions on how to discover the SSID number of the network, which is the number that distinguishes one wireless network from another. (Anyone want to send one along to us?) Right now the SSID number is “cloaked”, so Mountain View residents can’t access it. A few of the residents were saying that they could already see the SSID number when their computer searches for a WiFi signal. That made a Google spokesperson look a bit nervous.

There were probably more than a hundred residents at the training session, and most were worried about not being able to get coverage. For a few areas of Mountain View the company could not secure space on light poles, so Google is asking residents if they wouldn’t mind putting an access point on their chimneys. They even thought about flyer-ing those areas, but said they didn’t want to be too aggressive. Google also said that “it is unlikely that a WiFi-enabled laptop or computer with a conventional WiFi card will work indoors at most locations. If you want to use the system indoors we suggest getting an extended-range WiFi modem.” So that’s another extra cost if the resident wants to rely on the network as a DSL or cable replacement.

After the 100 testers give the network a rigorous review, more trusted-testers will be invited to check it out. Google is calling it a “rolling launch.” They want to make sure that there’s as few glitches as possible for the official launch day, which they’ve only set at the “summer of 2006.” Hopefully we’ll get a chance to give it a spin pretty soon."
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From PCMag:

Google will turn several hundred "Trusted Testers" loose on a new 12-square-mile wireless network in Mountain View, California next week, launching the beta test of the citywide network it is installing in its home town.

For the first site of GoogleWiFi, the company has deployed transmitters on approximately 370 light poles throughout the city, with base stations in three key locations (including Google's own headquarters) to provide 1 mbps Wi-Fi to 90 percent of Mountain View's streets, says Larry Alder, product manager, who explained the project to a receptive neighborhood meeting Thursday night. (No word on whether the transmitters also service Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, but Google employees have been the alpha testers for the past three weeks).

The service is expected to be open to all by the end of summer, and is free of charge, by agreement with the city. In fact, Google is picking up the tab to obtain a proof of concept for citywide wireless networking, since the project is similar to the much larger project it is developing for San Francisco. Logins will be required--when the net is fully operational, a Gmail account will serve as login--but Alder says GoogleWiFi won't carry banner ads or other commercial messages (other than eventually offering city and school events information on the home page, which each user will be able to customize).

For security, GoogleWiFi will offer an optional, downloadable VPN client called Google Secure Access (only for Windows at first; a Mac client is in the works and Google expects the Linux community will craft its own). GoogleWiFi will also support private and corporate VPNs.

Google stresses that GoogleWiFi is intended as an outdoor net, for access from city parks, cafes, and the library (which also has a transmitter); residents who want to access the free net from their homes will need to invest in a signal receiver such as Peplink's Surf 200BG unit or the Buffalo AirStation Turbo G Notebook Adapter to amplify the signal.

Alder was also careful to say Google isn't advocating Mountain View residents cancel their DSL or cable Internet access in favor of Google's free service, although he notes it will be a boost for current dialup users. (Clearly competitors AT&T and Comcast are nervous, though; Mountain View residents have seen a recent blizzard of promotional deals for their broadband services as Google gears up.)

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