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November 17, 2005

Google momentum bumps stock beyond $400

Google Inc has capped off a busy week with its share price blowing past the $400 mark on the Nasdaq.

By CBR Staff Writer

It’s a far cry from the stock’s $85 list price when the company went public in August 2004. And the November 17 closing price of $403.45 was $100 higher than after the company announced unexpectedly strong quarter earnings in October.

Google now has a market value of $112bn, which is more than Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo, to name just a few.

Analysts seem bullish on the continuing upward trend of Google stock, based on the company’s recent momentum.

The company has made a slew of announcements recently, including the statement that it would broaden its reach in Latin America by opening the doors of two new offices in Brazil and Mexico. Just days before this, Google announced a free, hosted Web analytics service.

But what seems to have captured the industry’s collective imagination most was Google getting the green light to build a free WiFi network in its central Silicon Valley hometown of Mountain View, California.

This entire project is a sandbox so that we can grow and extend our learning from end to end, so we can understand how these networks work, said Chris Sacca, principal of new business development at Google.

He said a lot of Google partners are beginning to build WiFi networks and are asking Google if it can help enable a Google-branded experience, particularly for local advertisers.

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As of yet, there haven’t been many of these built, he said. We want to make sure our technology is ready for the coming wave of these networks.

It’s all part of the company’s learning-by-doing strategy, he said. In designing the network, Google has found pain points that even network providers weren’t aware of, he said.

Essentially, the company sees these networks as an extension of the way people use Google products today, but there are some very specific examples, Sacca said. For instance, users searching for a restaurant on the cell phone would receive local search results. It will be interesting to see if we can give more granular results.

The citywide coverage enables potential benefits to users as more applications are built, he said. Continuous connection is also neat for social networks.

Google also has a bid to build a free WiFi network with the City of San Francisco, but said it is currently not looking outside the Bay Area to build additional networks. However, Our focus is on building the tools that will incent and enable our partners to build these networks worldwide, Sacca said.

Also, the City of Mountain View said Google is testing WiFi at the Rockefeller Center in New York, as well as at Union Square in San Francisco.

Sacca dodged the question of whether Google WiFi networks would be built outside the US at some future point. Instead, he reiterated Google’s mission statement, which involves organizing all the world’s information.

He also said that WiFi networks for Google are less about specific sites and more about being ready for the ecosystem of these networks being built and being asked for these services.

By learning how to make Google a compelling mobile user experience, the company expects the creation of monetization tools that brings down the cost of deploying and using networks would follow, he said. He cited the company’s AdSense product as an example of a tool that created content for money.

So, ultimately, it would be very interesting for us if we could have a similar effect on the creation of networks in that by creating tools that really help add value to this ecosystem and create revenue opportunities where there may not have been any before, Sacca said.

He declined to give specific details on the network or upcoming services.

The total cost of deploying a citywide WiFi network in Mountain View would be less than $1m, said Chuck Haas, chief executive of MetroFi Inc. It’s very cost effective, he said.

Haas would know: His company, also based in Mountain View, won a bid earlier this year to build a similar WiFi network in the city.

Since both MetroFi and Google signed nonexclusive deals with the local council, the city may end up having two WiFi networks. When asked when or whether MetroFi would continue its own network plans in the city, Haas simply said, Stay tuned.

He declined to comment on Google’s network specifically, but pointed out Google has said it’s merely a test. Our service is 1 megabit per second, it’s secure and includes our high-performance wireless modem, he said. It’s a complete solution.

Google has its network signal may weaken behind walls and suggested users might need to pay up to $100 in extra equipment to improve reception.

Given that MetroFi began building its network during the past summer, it seems unlikely the company would back out of the project now.

MetroFi already has installed WiFi networks in the nearby Silicon Valley cities of Cupertino and Santa Clara, in which customers pay $19.95 per month for access. The company will launch a citywide network in neighboring Sunnyvale by year’s end.

Google has said it would build its WiFi network in Mountain View, which covers 12 square miles and has 72,000 residents, by June.

The City of Mountain View said Google would pay about $12,600 in annual fees to use local street lamps to mount its wireless equipment.

Sacca declined to give details on the hardware the company will use. We are using a bunch of different vendors, he said. Google hopes to enable access from a wide variety of users and devices, he said.

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