Google unveils ultrafast Internet-TV in Kansas City

16 November 2012
By David Spencer
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Google’s foray into the market for bundled Internet and television services on Thursday promises access speeds more than 100 times faster than those of traditional US cable and telecommunications companies.

Search-engine leader Google has unveiled it’s ultra-high-speed service Google Fiber in Kansas City, Missouri, and installations could begin in September, say executives. The company hopes to roll out the service to other cities later.

Google’s chief financial officer Patrick Pitchette has stated: "Access is the next frontier that needs to be opened. We're going to do it profitably. That is our plan.

"We are at a crossroad," he added. Acknowledging that Internet speeds had levelled out for broadband since around 2000 he went on to say: "We at Google we believe there is no need to wait."

Google Fiber's ultra-high-speed connections and television offerings are set to be surpassing those of current providers. By allowing users to search live channels, Netflix, YouTube, recorded shows and tens of thousands of hours of on-demand programming.  Yet no phone service is available.

Pichette said: "The phone is really a 1940's thing. Why have a landline? It's sitting there, you use it once every two weeks."

Google also intend to roll out product packages for businesses. The company have supplied no details. Google Fiber includes more than 100 networks and costs $120 a month for a package of TV, 1 gigabyte per second Internet speeds and 1 terabyte of cloud storage.

The package includes popular networks owned by major media companies including Comcast Corp's NBC Universal, Discovery Communications and Viacom Inc. Premium movie networks are available from Liberty Media's Starz with an added fee.

But it excludes several major TV names, such as News Corp's Fox cable channels; Time Warner networks like CNN, TNT and TBS; as well as Walt Disney Co cable channels like ESPN and Disney's children networks.

Google executives said the company is still in negotiations to add more content. Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Research, said: "They need to be able to offer something that is everything people have now and more. People are going to have high expectations for this. The worst thing they can do is come out and disappoint."

Google will offer an Internet-only package priced at $70 a month. Executives estimate that download speeds would be around 1 gigabyte a second. Google is charging a $300 installation fee, stating consumers should treat it as a "home improvement" cost.

The initial service area includes central Kansas City, Missouri and all of the neighbouring cities. This market is dominated by Time Warner Cable Inc, which charges $99.95 for its fastest Internet-only service there. Google Fiber would be 20 times faster.

Justin Venech, Time Warner spokesman, has said the second largest US cable operator had a "robust and adaptable network", welcoming the competition.

Google Fiber includes such features as the ability to record eight TV shows at a time and store up to 500 hours of high-definition programming. Users can choose to use a tablet or smartphone as a voice-activated remote control.

Google are in the process of prepping for a six-week "rally" for consumers to vote on where the first fiber communities, now dubbed "fiberhoods," should be installed in the Kansas City area.

Alongside installation costs, consumers must pay $10 to register their household online for the service. About 50 neighbours will need to register in order for their area to be eligible for installation services, according to Google executives.

Whether or not consumers will embrace the new offerings is not known as yet, but officials said they are confident Kansas City will be a showcase of success for a larger rollout.

"Google is a very different company. And this is not a short-term project," said Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access.

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