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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Why Google Has Eyes for Irvine

Irvine’s diverse economy, increasingly vibrant startup scene, affluent demographics, and residential mix all helped put Orange County’s third largest city on track for Google Inc.’s new Internet and TV service.

Irvine’s population of 250,000 or so doesn’t come close to two other cities under consideration for the Google Fiber program—Louisville and San Diego—but the local business landscape is exceptional in terms of size and range.

The cadre of big businesses that call Irvine home include the world’s largest technology products distributor, Ingram Micro Inc.; the world’s largest disk drive maker, Western Digital Corp., Broadcom Corp., the world’s eighth largest chipmaker; video game giant Blizzard Entertainment Inc.; Vizio Inc., the U.S. leader in smart TV sales; LA Fitness parent Fitness International LLC; fast-food behemoth Taco Bell; and medical device maker Edward Lifesciences Corp., among others.

The city’s base of big companies is complemented by midsize and smaller enterprises that combine to make the city a hub of business services and employment.

A source familiar with Google’s plans highlighted Irvine’s “strong commitment to creating an entrepreneurial culture” as a major attraction, specifically citing Startup Weekend. The event is a 54-hour pitching competition backed by Google to link Orange County designers, developers, entrepreneurs and industry experts. The source also cited Irvine’s developing tech incubators and co-working spaces such as EvoNexus, The Vine and FastStartStudio.

“From its tech incubators to its collaborative workspaces, Irvine is a city with a strong entrepreneurial culture that will only grow with access to superfast Internet,” a Google spokesperson told the Business Journal. “We’re looking forward to working alongside city leaders in the coming months to explore if we can bring Google Fiber to the city.”

Fragile Glass

The fiber-optic cabling system, which is made from fragile glass protected by several layers of kevlar-like encasing, produces Internet speeds of one gigabyte per second, or about 100 times faster than the U.S. average.

The system has been deployed in the metro areas of Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Charlotte; Kansas City; Nashville; Raleigh-Durham; Provo, Utah; Salt Lake City; and San Antonio. Other areas pegged for the service include Portland, Ore.; San Jose; and Phoenix.

These areas met the following criteria Google has outlined in deploying the fiber network:

• Strong partners at city hall. Google is looking for cities with local leaders excited about gigabit speeds and who want to put in the time and work to make it happen.

• Housing density. The target market is a midsize city with a good mix of single-family homes and multi-dwelling units.

• Diverse industry. Google believes gigabit technology could be a catalyst for new innovation and developments across industries.

• A diverse community where opportunity exists to help more people get online through partnerships with local nonprofits and other community organizations.

Google is actively working with Irvine officials and analyzing several factors that could affect construction, including topography, housing and existing infrastructure such as utility poles, water and electrical lines.

The fiber-optic network uses a hub and spoke design.

The process would begin with a fiber ring, or backbone, built around the city, making it easier to connect fiber to any service area. Fiber huts are then installed along the ring, acting as switchboards that receive and transmits signals between a home or business and the Internet. The huts are then connected to telecom cabinets, which divide the fiber strands into smaller bundles that are stretched the last mile or so to the endpoint of service.

Google has faced some legal challenges in deploying the network.

Cox Communications has filed a lawsuit in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, which is home to the largest college in the country, Arizona State University, claiming the city broke federal law in exempting Google from certain regulations other cable companies must follow.

Tempe didn’t classify Google as a cable operator when it approved a video services license agreement with Google Fiber.

Google has yet to confirm the next locations of its fiber network, but the search giant is hiring two positions in its Irvine office directly related to the initiative.

One is community impact manager, a position heavily tied to marketing and communications efforts. The other is called Google fiber city manager and would include oversight of the overall business in the market, as well as developing and driving strategy to “acquire, retain, and grow subscribers.”

Google, which has had some presence in Irvine since at least 2006, employs more than 200 people at its new 140,000-square-foot digs at the Impac Center on Jamboree Road, which features an outdoor deck, private gym, underground parking with spaces for bicycles and electric vehicles, and conference rooms dubbed The 55, Monochromatic Triangle, and The Wedge.

The four-story glass building has become a key hub for Google’s push to link analytics and app development to drum up monetization opportunities for its bevy of advertisers.


The latest local effort, much like Google’s prior work in OC, ultimately plays into the ecosystem it has developed for Google AdWords, the company’s main advertising product and primary source of revenue. Local Google employees have also lent a hand in developing AdMob, a newer monetization initiative to help developers understand data on users. The goal is to build and retain audiences and extend the amount of time users interact with an app.

The widespread R&D efforts are a luxury the market-share leader in online search can afford.

The company last year posted revenue of more than $66 billion, with net income topping $14.4 billion.

It is the second most valued company in the world behind Apple Inc., with a market cap of about $447.8 billion.

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