Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Google Fiber–The Installation

As described before, it has been a long wait to get Google Fiber installed in my condo – over two years after Google announced that Kansas City would be their first Fiber city.  Finally at the end of January 2014 installation day arrived.  I received an email to schedule an install, clicked a link to schedule and instantly chose the first one available – all of this in a matter of minutes on my iPhone (yes iPhone).  Soon after that I received this confirmation email:

Thanks for scheduling your Google Fiber installation.  As a reminder, your appointment is on January 30 from 2pm - 5pm. We’ll be there promptly at 2pm but the installation can take up to 4 hours, so please keep the full time of your appointment available.

If you need to reschedule, please sign in to My Fiber or call us We’re looking forward to meeting you and getting you set up on Google Fiber.

- The Google Fiber Team

The day of the install I received a call from the Google Fiber Install tech.  They were running ahead of schedule and could come by earlier than their scheduled time if I would be available.  Since I work fairly close to my condo I took them up on their offer.  On my way home there I actually drove right by their truck (see photo below).

When Google first started their installs in Kansas City they were telling customers it could take up to six hours so I suppose they are getting a little faster with the four-hour max timeframe – still seems a bit long, but better to plan for too much time than to run behind and become like those “other” cable guys right?  The installation crew is made up of two guys – both contractors from ITC services group, but branded as Google Fiber techs.  If you’ve been following along through my last few Google Fiber posts you will note that Google uses a LOT of contractors in this process.  But I will say these installation guys seemed to be very happy with the task at hand.  More on that later.

The installation crew arrived carrying the Google Fiber bag  that held all of the hardware for the install including the fiber jack, network box, TV storage box and Nexus 7 tablet (included for free with the TV package!)


Google Fiber Hardware Devices:

  • Fiber Jack - 7.5" W x 7.5" D x 1.6" H.- This thing is located inside the home and connects the fiber coming into the home to Ethernet for connection to the Network Box and the home network. This is also known as an optical network terminal (ONT) that converts gigabit symmetric fiber optic signals to gigabit Ethernet.

  • Network Box - 7.5" W x 7.5" D x 1.6" H – this is the wireless router (or gateway device) for Google Fiber.  You can use this as you only router or you can use your own router along with this box if you prefer.  I chose to just eliminate my own router to simplify things for now.  The network box supports a maximum of 16 wireless devices.  The photo below is of the back of the network box:

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  • Storage Box - 7.5" W x 8" D x 1.7" H – If you choose the TV package, this box will be the central storage box for everything you record from any of your TV boxes.  For those of you familiar with the HTPC world, this is your HTPC server in a box.  Inside is a 2 TB hard drive that Google estimates will store about 500 hours of TV in HD – so recordings seem to take up roughly 4 GB per hour.  The way it is set up, you can’t record TV to an external device – at least at this time.  You can upload your personal media to this storage box – stuff like photos or home videos.

  • TV Box - 6.8" W x 5.3" D x 1.3" H – This replaces your  CableTV box.  You need one of these at each TV in the home as it controls the TV/DVR/Guide and other functions at each TV.  Note that it does not have a hard drive and instead records and plays content right from the central storage box mentioned above.  For the HTPC folks this is basically an extender running the new version of SageTV firmware.  Hardware-wise it is quite a bit different than the SageTV HD300’s because it handles DRM unlike the HD300’s and it apparently runs something like a SageTVClient instead of a simple extender.  If you need your wireless network to reach farther than the network box’s ideal range, you can optionally turn on wifi at each TV box to use any of them as a wireless access point.  For additional details on the TV box head over to Google’s support page where it describes the ports and features in more detail.

  • The Remote Control included is by default Bluetooth, but can be set to use as infrared instead if desired.  It has a power button that can control your TV and the volume can be set to control a different IR device such as your TV or AV Receiver as well.  The button layout is simple and seems to have just what you need to control things without becoming to cluttered.  You get one remote for each TV box.

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  • Nexus 7 Tablet – If you choose the TV plan, you get a brand new Nexus 7 Tablet.  The ones they are providing to new Google Fiber subscribers are the latest version of the tablet.  They promote this as a “remote” for the TV and it does have the Google Fiber TV app installed, but otherwise it’s just like any other Nexus Tablet and can be used however you want.  A really nice bonus!  Note that the Google Fiber TV app is also available on Android iOS devices.

  • The fiber in our condo building had already been run to every unit, just inside the front door.  So the first task at hand for the installation crew was to work through with me how to best get the fiber from the entry point to either a CATV coaxial or Ethernet cable – somewhere where they could install the fiber jack that converts the fiber to Ethernet.  The fiber jack needs power so the ideal location in a home already wired with Ethernet as in my case was near the front door since it was a fairly short run to get the fiber from the entry wall to the fiber jack, but also right next to a power outlet.

    You’ll notice in this picture above, the white wire coming out of the bottom of the fiber box.  This is actually the fiber with small, shield covering.  In the next photo you can see the thin fiber being run along the wall. 


    This photo above was taken before the adhesive dried – now that it’s dry, it is still visible, but barely.  It really blends into the wall pretty good and once painted it will be difficult to tell it is there.  We chose the thinner run of fiber for aesthetic purposes.  It’s paintable and really such a thin wire that it will blend in with the wall and trim.  There is also an option to go with a thicker wire where it might fit into a different install situation.  Running this thin wire and adhering it to the wall really took the most time of the entire install. 

    Once the fiber was run along the wall and the fiber jack was working they began running some tests of the connection and then installed the network box and TV storage box in my network closet.  From this closet I already had Ethernet and coaxial run all over the condo.  Next the two TV boxes were connected at each TV.  There currently is a limit of up to four TV boxes per home which certainly isn’t a problem in my condo, but I can imagine in some larger homes this could be limiting.  Hopefully they will eliminate this limitation in the near future.

    With everything set up they began testing the internet speed on my wired computer, on their laptops and on the included Nexus 7.  The TV boxes installed their updates and they began going through the basics of using the TV, remote control, nexus 7 and the Google MyFiber Settings

    Setting up the TV boxes was very fast – just a matter of plugging it in and waiting for it to update firmware and guide data.  After the first box was installed, MrsGeekTonic picked up the remote and started setting up her favorite recordings – Since this was before they had gone through how to use the setup, the installer commented “wow, have you used Google Fiber at another house?” and MrsGeekTonic replied “No, but I’ve used SageTV and this is pretty close to that.”  I’ll be going over the interface and other topics like that in the next post, but this is an example of how familiar everything on the TV box is to a former SageTV user.

    Below is a photo of the Storage Box stacked on top of the Network Box.  These can be located in a central location away from the TV or in the TV cabinet depending on the best setup for your situation.  I have these two boxes hidden away in a network closet and wired to the TV via Ethernet already installed in my home.

    Below is the new Google Fiber TV box on top of the hunk of awful Time Warner cable box.  Google remote on the left and TWC remote on the right.

    Below is a photo of the new Google Fiber TV Box on the left and his “father” the SageTV HD300 on the right:


    The entire installation took just under an hour and a half. The install techs seemed to be fairly well trained on the install and the hardware. I asked quite a few questions and they seemed happy to answer all of them. They really seemed genuinely excited about Google Fiber – something I don’t remember my many experiences with Time Warner Cable installers.

    The day after my install I took my Time Warner Cable Box and Modem back to the TWC Cable Store.  The representative that helped me there was friendly, but kept asking me why I was leaving TWC.  I replied, “well I now have Google Fiber” and she came back with this:  “We now have internet speeds up to 100Mbps in Kansas City!”  You may note that most TWC areas only have up to 50Mbps and TWC just added the extra capability after Google Fiber arrived here.  I replied that their real download speeds are far lower than that and now with Google Fiber I get over 600Mbps down AND up consistently.  She didn’t seem to know what to do with that information and said, “well when you change your mind here’s my card – just call me.”  I honestly don’t think she really knew what kind of difference the speeds were and especially the cost differences.  Note to Time Warner – if you are going to try to keep business where there is already Google Fiber, I would just give up on the internet stuff and really promote the heck out of your TV offerings as you do have some advantages there (more on that in a future post.)

    Next up will be one or more posts that talk about the real speed of Google Fiber in my home, the TV product, how it works, pros and cons etc.  If you have questions about any of this let me know in the comments and I will try to address as many of those as I can.

    To sum it all up, the install went extremely smooth and a few weeks later I am still a very happy customer.  For those who wondered how Google would be able to handle the person-to-person customer service, it has been exceptional so far especially compared to my experience with Time Warner, Dish Network and DirecTV.