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Area 120 announces ‘Orion Wifi’ to lease ‘public venue’ Wi-Fi to carriers, Google Fi supporting

Area 120 is Google’s internal incubator for experimental projects that later get merged with existing teams if proven successful. Orion Wifi wants to make it easy for malls, grocery stores, and other “public venues” to “sell Wi-Fi capacity to cellular carriers,” like Google Fi. 

As you walk into the grocery store, Orion Wifi helps the local network tell the carrier about its price and quality. If the carrier decides the connection is good enough, we’ll auto-connect you. If the quality is too low, we won’t. When you are connected, Internet traffic flows over the Wi-Fi network just as if you had connected directly to the Wi-Fi; Orion cannot access users’ Internet traffic. 

Google is working with many parts of the telecommunications industry to implement Orion Wifi. On the carrier front, Google Fi and Republic Wireless have committed to use this technology. Public venues will benefit from increased revenue.

Wi-Fi manufacturers, like Cisco Systems, CommScope (RUCKUS), and Juniper Mist, are working to make sure “that Orion Wifi is compatible and easy to deploy with their networking equipment.” Google’s system does not require new hardware or software and can improve existing connectivity:

Orion Wifi helps improve connectivity even for venues that have already deployed Distributed Antenna Systems or Small Cells to improve coverage. But unlike those systems, Orion Wifi is incredibly quick and easy to turn on.

Google also wants to make the OpenRoaming Wi-Fi standard more powerful with the Wireless Broadband Alliance. In the field, Google is partnering with Wi-Fi and real estate companies that are responsible for deployments.

Boingo, the leading carrier-grade Wi-Fi provider, is using Orion Wifi to expand its connectivity offering to travelers and visitors across their U.S. footprint. And we’re working with leaders in commercial real estate like 5G LLC, GigaMonster, CA Ventures and Single Digits to enable Orion Wifi at premium venues across the United States. 

As of today, Orion Wifi is available for US venues, with Google noting “no cost to sign up, and no commitments or obligations.”

More about Area 120:

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: