UPDATED Google Fiber, the Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) division of the internet giant, is reportedly testing new voice functionality among select US subscribers. A new VoIP app called Fiber Phone will allow users to link landline and mobile phones via a single number, with a bundle of associated call answering and messaging services.
“Our latest offering is Google Fiber Phone, which gives you the chance to add home phone services to your current Fiber service plan,” said the company in a subscriber email, quoted by the Washington Post.
The announcement came as parent company Alphabet reported a 17.8 per cent uptick in quarterly revenues to $21.3 billion, boosting its share price to value the company at $568 billion, overtaking Apple’s market capitalisation of $535 billion and making it the world’s most valuable company.
This latest fibre development suggests that Google – or rather Alphabet – now sees networking, infrastructure and unified voice/data services as a key element of its restructured business moving forward, and perhaps believes that poor infrastructure in some locations is inhibiting its core mission to organise the world’s information. (There is certainly an opportunity in the UK, as UCInsight reported last week.)
Google Fiber has been growing stealthily in the US. Between 2014 and 2015, it quadrupled subscriber numbers to 120,000 – a tiny fraction of its potential user base, but still a glimpse into Alphabet’s expanding infrastructure plans away from Google’s core search and data businesses, which remain the most valuable part of Alphabet’s business.
At the weekend, it was also announced that Google’s ‘SkyBender’ project is intended to beam high-speed 5G network coverage from fleets of solar-powered, airborne drones, using millimetre-wave technology. In addition, it has been experimenting with balloon-based floating hotspots.
The company has also been investing in humanoid robotics, via its Atlas acquisition from Boston Dynamics, and driverless cars.