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There has long been speculation that Google would launch a free, advertising funded wireless hotspot network in San Francisco, but the company has surprised observers with one in its home town of Mountain View instead. It's free and there's no advertising, for now at least.
Google says its intent is to eventually provide outdoor coverage o "the entire city of Mountain View...but] an exception to this is the Mountain View Public Library, where we have installed WiFi access points inside to ensure good coverage throughout the building."

The network is also speed-limited to a maximum upload and download rate of 1Mbps.

Google says it still plans to launch a service San Francisco but "there is no set date regarding when this service will be available," it says. "Nor are there current plans to provide a wireless network to any other cities."

Google has not indicated whether the San Francisco network will be free like that in Mountain View, or will carry advertising. When rumours of the SF network first started circulating in late 2005 there was much speculation that it could seriously erode the classified advertising revenue of local publications.

There is a comprehensive FAQ list on the Google WiFi website http://wifi.google.com but it does not discuss whether there will be any restriction on the network supporting VoIP.

Google also claims to offer a free secure VPN service using a downloadable VPN client for Windows. However when iTWire checked the Google WiFi website on 16 August,  none of the links to download this software worked.

According to reports in the US press, Google has spent about $US1 million to build the network which has 380 base stations. Ongoing operating costs are expected to be minimal.

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