Google ups its hardware game still further, but WiFi device offers little new

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Google seems to have cast aside any qualms it had about being a hardware maker and is launching devices on all fronts, including Google WiFi.

This is a mesh-enabled system which highlights how home WiFi and associated implements will be increasingly controlled from the smartphone. An Android app turns the WiFi off entirely at bedtime, tells devices which mesh node to connect to, and produces a report on data usage. There is a pause button which lets a user cut off specific devices, particularly aimed at parents, and the app also lets people prioritize devices on the network, so that streaming TV gets bandwidth ahead of P2P downloads for instance.

Presumably the device will also become a launching pad for all Google’s IoT frameworks and it has Bluetooth Smart, Weave, and 802.15.4 wireless access too. Unlike Pixel, it sees Google eschewing the carrier route to market – even though most WiFi routers are sold by broadband and multiplay operators, this will be a direct offer.

Google stays loyal to the manufacturers which have learned how it likes to work and in the same way that HTC gets to build all of the Pixel phones, Asus seems set to make all of its routers. The new WiFi mesh system will actually work with the older OnHub Google product, manufactured by both Asus and TP-Link – they both have a tendency to use Broadcom chips, so that company is probably providing the silicon here too.

The system is modular, so additional units can be added to expand coverage into new parts of the home. Google said its Network Assist software will automatically select the best connection. “Network Assist keeps your network strong even as your roam about the house by intelligently transitioning you to the best WiFi point and placing you on the right WiFi channel to avoid congestion,” said Mario Queiroz, VP of product management, during the launch.

The WiFi mesh appears to have been designed by Google itself. There are a few mesh products out there, but increasingly mesh networks are sold by operators and the retail products are mostly extenders – which use up an extra WiFi channel connecting to a remote booster access point. Operators are also trying to take a leap of faith and shift to devices which can simply daisy chain to one another, offering a single SSID and reaching an entire building – Google is selling one Google WiFi router for $129 and a pack of three for $299, available from November at the Google Store, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart.

Turkish Company AirTies has had a mesh which works on multiple layers of WiFi, as has Arris (both 5.0 GHz channels and 2.1 GHz) and earlier this year Qualcomm launched its own tri-band WiFi, using two separate 5 GHz channels and a single 2.4 GHz radio. The Google WiFi device only offers 2×2 MIMO and no Multi User-MIMO features, so is unlikely to manage fancy tricks like preserving a streaming video, when it hits a sticky client or bad apple.

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.

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