Google is rapidly encroaching into another area of increasing importance to cable operators and telcos – in-home WiFi.
Continuing its deep push into the connected/smart home, Google on Tuesday launched OnHub, a WiFi router/communications hub that’s designed to remove the complexity out of speedy, wireless home networking.
OnHub, a cylindrical device that conjures up images of the Amazon Echo, is available on pre-order for $199.99 from online retailers that include the Google Store, Amazon and Walmart.com, and will be available in brick-and-mortar retail stores in the U.S. and Canada in the coming weeks. It would also seem to be a logical in-home perk for Google Fiber.
Google said OnHub, a 1.9-pound device developed in tandem with TP-LINK available in blue or black, is a gigabit-capable dual-band 802.11ac product that bakes in Bluetooth and Weave, a communications layer for the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) introduced by Google in May that provides a blueprint for a common language that can be understood by other devices in the smart home ecosystem, such as connected door locks. Among the features, users can prioritize a device to ensure, for example, that a tablet can get the fastest speed for video streaming. And Google claims the product can automatically avoid interference and pick the best available channel.
OnHub is coming on the scene as in-home WiFi becomes a key ingredient in cable operator broadband strategies. Comcast and Cablevision Systems, for example, have been integrating WiFi into their DOCSIS gateways and enabling secondary SSID signals (sometimes called “homespots” that are accessible to their high-speed Internet customers. Additionally, Comcast is working on a next-gen Xfinity Home platform that will run new Comcast-developed products as well as third-party devices, including Google’s Nest smart thermostat.
In addition to the fancy tech features, Google claims to be shooting for home networking simplicity, enabling users to manage everything from the Google On app for iOS and Android devices. Instead of relying on easily-forgotten SSID passwords, the OnHub system provides that info with a “single tap” and the ability to share those credentials with friends and other authorized users via text or email.
“We replaced unruly cords and blinking lights with internal antennas and subtle, useful lighting, so you’ll be placing OnHub out in the open, where your router performs its best,” Trond Wuellner, group product manager at Google, explained in this blog post "At the end of the day, we want our Wi-Fi to just work, so that we can do all the things we love to do online. Here’s to Wi-Fi with the reliability, speed, and security you want at home, without the frustrations you don’t."
Looking ahead, Google said it plans to design new OnHub devices with other partners, including ASUS.
For a closer look at OnHub (and a good chuckle right off the bat), see the video below: