Technology and the Internet • Google’s ‘antenna farm’ plans hint at TV service
If Google plans to draw customers to its ultrafast Internet service, it would help to bundle it with a cable-style TV package.
And to get the necessary TV programming, it would likely need an “antenna farm” of commercial-sized satellite dishes to capture “The O’Reilly Factor,” “SportsCenter,” “Boardwalk Empire” and the rest of what people come to expect on their channel selections.
To do that, Google would need a license from the Federal Communications Commission to set up a satellite receiving station.
So news that Google applied to the FCC in December for such a license is now fueling speculation that the search king might bundle Internet and TV services in Kansas City. Google chose Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., last spring as the cities where it hopes to make next-generation Internet connections available and affordable to homes.
Google is being characteristically mum on the subject. A spokeswoman said only, “We’re still exploring what product offerings will be available when we launch Google Fiber” — the name given for its Internet service project.
The FCC application does not give specifics about how Google might use the facility. And the fact that Google wants to camp the operation in Council Bluffs, Iowa, near Omaha, muddies the guessing about the company’s intent.
Instead, Google said in its application only that the company wanted those satellite receiving stations to receive so-called C-band and Ku-band signals “to provide analog and digital audio, data and video services.” That could constitute the sort of antenna farm that cable television companies use to capture signals before routing them to customers, analysts said.
The technology blog Ars Technica first noted the application, which was denied on technical grounds. The FCC signaled a revised application might go forward.
Google has been coaxing people toward watching more television programming over the Internet before. It owns YouTube, and last year signed up Hollywood talent to produce more professional content “channels” for the video-streaming website.
This development, if it turns out to be the construction of an antenna farm for collecting network programming, might mark a more traditional way to pipe entertainment to living rooms.
Why Council Bluffs? Perhaps because the Omaha area sits on the backbone of the fiber optic cables that stretch the Internet across the U.S. The location could help if Google launched its super-fast Internet service in other markets, or if it incorporated a paid-programming package with its Google TV.
Google TV was introduced in 2010 as a way to meld conventional television programming with Web surfing. It has yet to gain much popularity.
The Council Bluffs station might act as what the cable industry describes as a “head end.” That’s where television signals are collected from satellites, unscrambled and assigned to channels. Google could then transfer the signals over Internet Protocol Television, or a technology like that used with AT&T’s Uverse service called IPTV, to homes. Running a connection to Kansas City, experts said, would be relatively simple.
The western Iowa hub might also be used to feed programming to devices such as tablets or smartphones using Google’s Android software, or to televisions connected to the Internet through Google TV, said Kansas State University computer scientist Dan Andresen.
“You might want something centrally located in the country to reduce latency” — or delays in transmission — he said.
Some analysts say the Council Bluffs operation could set up a television service for Google to package with its 1 gigabit-per-second Internet service in Kansas City. Google expects to start offering service to some neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kan., by midsummer. The company has not yet said how much it will charge, but it has said it is considering services beyond just Internet access.
“I never believed (Google’s plan for Kansas City) was going to be an Internet-only, data-only proposition,” said Mark Kersey, a cable industry analyst.
He and others said that luring customers with just an Internet service, even at download speeds 100 times the broadband average and upload speeds 1,000 times quicker than the norm, would be difficult. Google has said it will charge rates competitive with conventional service.
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Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:16 am
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