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Google’s recently launched city-oriented innovation startup Footpath Labs is setting its sights on improving cities with pervasive Wi-Fi access.
Footpath Labs is directing a group of investors in acquiring Control Group and Titan, two companies working on an endeavour dubbed LinkNYC to blanket NYC with free, fast public Wi-Fi. Via this joint acquisition, the two companies will merge into a new startup called Intersection.
Intersection will work with partners like Qualcomm and Comark to bring free public gigabit Wi-Fi to NYC.
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Fast, free Wi-Fi is important to Google’s own mission and the greater ability of telecoms to service dense cities.
Project Fi, Google’s mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) endeavour, is predicated upon consumers accessing mobile communications on Wi-Fi. While it’s unlikely that Google is looking to become a bona fide mobile operator, it is looking to prove new technologies around seamless handoff between Wi-Fi and data networks. The success of Google’s project large-scale and long-term will have a lot to do with the access of high quality Wi-Fi.
Telecoms have a hard time handling very dense cities like NYC because the high concentration of consumers bogs down even the most efficient data networks. While small cells and Wi-Fi handoff are two tactics that can help alleviate overburdened networks, both small cells and Wi-Fi access are far from pervasive. If NYC and other dense cities were blanketed with Wi-Fi networks it would help telecoms be able to handle larger capacities.
Wi-Fi handoff will be increasingly important in the years to come as smartphone penetration increases ahead of the rollout of 5G networks. Over half of 4G traffic will be offloaded in 2019, when mobile data traffic is expected to be six times the 523 petabytes per month it saw in 2014.
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