A report out of The Information today claims that as early as this summer, Google will begin selling low-cost, commercial-grade Wi-Fi equipment to small and medium size businesses to greatly improve the level of connectivity they offer their customers, as well as that of the business itself.
The directive is being headed by Google's Access team, the group behind Google Fiber. The team's goals aren't detailed at great length, but here's what I was able to gather.
First, this new directive is not a Google ISP - Google merely wants to sell businesses the routing and AP hardware in order to increase their level of Wi-Fi support. The point is to provide customers, and employees, commercial-grade Wi-Fi access at a fraction of the cost of solutions sold by the likes of Cisco. The Wi-Fi network would be connected to the internet by the business owner's existing ISP. The backend of the Wi-Fi network would be powered by web-based software supplied by Google, running on the Google Compute Engine platform, meaning the network could be managed from anywhere with an internet connection. The software would be free - the only cost is the hardware.
On the consumer side, this initiative would serve as the groundwork for something Google is internally calling "Hotspot 2.0." Did you just get chills? I just got chills. Hotspot 2.0 is a separate but related initiative also being spearheaded by the Access team, the point of which is to ease the annoyance of having to go through the process of connecting to a new hotspot manually and agreeing to some generic, useless T&C garbage before actually being able to get on the internet. Google wants anyone with a Google account and a mobile device to simply be able to connect to any Hotspot 2.0-ready network with zero interaction from the user - totally seamless. That'd be nice.
Google is also going to offer business owners the benefit of insights regarding customers who use their Wi-Fi networks (I would guess through its Analytics engine), though The Information wasn't clear on exactly what Google would disclose. Undoubtedly, Google itself would also gain enhanced insight from business using its Wi-Fi equipment, helping the company better target ads to users.
The benefits to customers would be obvious: more reliable, easier-to-use Wi-Fi with commercial-grade security and capacity. This is all just in the planning stages, though - like many Google projects, this Wi-Fi directive could get the axe at any time, we'll just have to wait and see if it comes to be.