Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Keeping the Google Bus Mobile

I heard a rumor that Google’s approach for providing Internet access to its employees while they ride the commuter shuttle using WiFi was turning many of the indulgence accustomed and productive workers into disgruntled commuters. Instead of using WiFi, Google is rumored to want to supply its soon to be no-longer-disgruntled commuters with 1xEvDO cards. If the rumor is true, will this be the real outcome???

EvDO is absolutely fabulous because it relieves you from the infamous ‘hot spot’ dependency and very effectively delivers on the promise of “Internet Everywhere”. As with all wireless access technologies, however, user satisfaction highly depends on coverage. EvDO, whether it is provided by the more experienced provider Verizon Wireless or the newbie Sprint, is likely to have its “gray spots”. These are spots where EvDO may not be present and one may be temporarily switched to 1xRTT. This is the CDMA technology that preceded EvDO and which only transmits at about 128Kbps instead of over 1Mbps.

The other catch is capacity. When 20+ concurrent users get on EvDO cards all using the same bearer (part of the cell site that provides the connectivity to the rest of the network) they will probably find the bandwidth to be much less than the expected 1.4Mbps.

Throw economics into the mix and the whole thing just falls apart. For the average consumer the price of EvDO is on average $80+ for the card plus $50 to $60 per month for the service (granted, Google can probably pull off a mega-deal with a carrier). Multiply this by the 150 or more Google commuters, and compare the numbers to using instead just a few EvDO lines connected to WiFi routers that can service the 20+ employees at a time.

At the end of the day, however, EvDO is a great investment for improving employee productivity. For example, another rumor has it that at Google “Sunday is the new Monday”. Therefore, for Google the return on investment on EvDO cards for its employees may certainly go a lot further than the Google Bus.

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