Building on the company’s OnHub WiFi router program, the search giant will be offering up its own mesh WiFi network solution for home users later this year aptly named “Google WiFi.” Available in November for pre-order Google will offer single and triple packs of its puck-shaped smartphone controlled WiFi nodes.
Google WiFi is a new product that takes advantage of an old technology called mesh networking. While most home users rely on a single powerful access point to distribute the wireless signal throughout the home, mesh networks place nodes around the home in such a way that the WiFi networks overlap. Devices can connect to any node and transition between nodes automatically. The nodes communicate with each other wirelessly and connect end devices to the router and Internet by taking the best path (least number of hops and/or highest signal strengths). This model does have some disadvantages that are shared with WiFi repeater solutions in that as much as 50% (or worse!) of the bandwidth can be lost at each hop as the devices use wireless for both communicating with end devices and the backbone to the router. The advantage though is that you need only find a power outlet to set up the mesh node and there is no need to run Ethernet or deal with Powerline or MoCA setups.
Fortunately, it looks as though Google has mitigated the disadvantage by including two radios. The circular Google WiFi nodes (which measure 4.17” diagonally and 2.7” tall) pack a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip that can operate at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Using the 5 GHz network for in room end devices (PCs, smartphones, game consoles, Rokus, et al) and the 2.4 GHz network to communicate with each other will help to eliminate a major bottleneck. There will likely still be some bandwidth lost, especially over multiple hops, due to interference, but it should be much less than 50% bandwidth loss.
Each Google WiFi node features two Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be setup as LAN or WAN ports, Bluetooth, and an 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi radio with beamforming support. The nodes are powered by an unspecified quad core processor, 512MB DDR3L memory, and 4GB of eMMC flash storage. The nodes apparently draw as much as 15 watts.
Of course, being Google, the Google WiFi can be controlled using an Android or iOS app that allows the administrator to pause WiFi on a per-device basis (e.g. set time limits for children), monitor device bandwidth usage and prioritize traffic, and automatically apply firmware updates to mitigate security risks. Additionally, Google WiFi automatically configures each node to use the best channel and band to get the best performance that supports all devices.
The nodes currently come only in white and are constructed of plastic. There are blue LEDs around the middle of the puck shaped device. Google WiFi will be available for pre-order in November. A single node will cost $129 while a three pack will cost $299. Google is not first to the wireless mesh party but it looks like it will be competitively priced (the three pack is $200 cheaper than eero, for example).
This looks like it might be a simple to setup solution if you or your family are currently running a single access point that can’t quite cover the entire home. I don’t really see this as a product for enthusiasts, but it might be worth recommending to people that just want WiFi that works with little setup. I will have to wait for reviews to say for sure though.
What are your thoughts on Google WiFi?