Two analysts from BTIG Research went to Kansas City to see what Google’s new cable-company killer, Google fibre, is like.What’s it like?
The Time Warner Cable system in Kansas City appears to be freaking out about the rollout of Google fibre, and for obvious reasons. Google fibre puts the Time Warner Cable offering to shame.
The analysts, Rich Greenfield and Walter Piecyk, have written a detailed report about how Google fibre works and what the TV and Internet experience is like. The report is available at BTIG’s site (registration required).
Here are some key points we gleaned from Rich and Walt’s report, as well as a video about Google fibre that Google produced:
- Google fibre gives you 1 Gbps (as in gigabit per second) of data speed, downstream and upstream, for $70 a month. That’s 75-100 times as fast as cable Internet service (at least Time Warner’s) when it’s operating at advertised speeds (which, in our household at least, it often is not).
- The Google installers promise to come to your house at the time of your appointment, not in some vague “window” that requires you to be home for 4 hours at a stretch (or much longer, if they don’t show). For anyone who has ever screamed in rage at the lousy customer service provided by the local cable company, this will be a big selling point. It will be interesting to see if Google can actually deliver on it.
- The installation is a two-step process. There are different technicians for inside and outside your house, and they come on different days.
- In the first step, the Google installers pull fibre from the utility pole to the side of your house. The “fibre” is actually fibre: A thin thread of glass. If you haven’t marveled at how much digital stuff can be pumped through a pipe that size, now’s your chance to marvel.
- In the second step, a home installer brings several pieces of equipment to your house, depending on whether you want just Internet or “TV service” for an additional $50 per month. The additional equipment consists of a “fibre jack” (a sort of modem), a “storage” box that acts as the home server, and a “TV box” for each TV. The TV boxes are small and sexy and look nothing like massive cable TV boxes. The TV boxes also operate partly via WiFi and bluetooth (fewer cords). The storage box can store two terabytes of video.
- You get a free Nexus 7 tablet (with a two-year subscription) to use as a remote control, in addition to a Google fibre remote. The Google fibre remote has fewer mystifying buttons than a typical TV remote. That’s a very encouraging change from the “Google TV” remote of a couple of years ago, which looked more complicated than the flight deck of the Space Shuttle.
- The “TV” interface comes in a few different formats: There’s a standard channel guide with DVR functionality, a “Discover” engine that recommends shows and movies to you, and the Holy Grail of TV 2.0: An interface that allows you to select what you want to watch and then lists every version of it that is available, regardless of which network or delivery service is showing it (i.e., Netflix, YouTube, CBS, etc.) The latter is the interface that most digital TV viewers have been waiting for.
- The TV service is still lacking several obvious features and attributes, such as YouTube integration and HBO and other networks. Also, you have to use the Google fibre remote control to run Netflix. But the single interface is helpful. (Right now, in our household, we have to search three or four different services to try to find a particular movie or program: “On Demand” directories from HBO, etc., Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. This is tedious and annoying.)
- Cable companies appear to be freaking out about the arrival of Google fibre, which, at least on paper, offers a much better service for less money. Greenfield and Piecyk report that Time Warner Cable is literally going from house to house to check Internet speeds and make sure customers are happy. If all Google fibre does is make cable companies start caring more about customer service, it will be a big win for the country.
Basically, it sounds like the whole country should be praying that Google decides to build out their neighbourhood with Google fibre next.
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