Google Fiber’s fixed wireless service, Webpass, closes Boston operation

Boston is no longer listed on Webpass' website. (Webpass)

Webpass, the fixed wireless provider that Google purchased in 2016 and put under its Google Fiber business, has shuttered operations in Boston. Webpass now offers fixed wireless services in seven remaining markets: Chicago, Denver, Miami, Oakland/East Bay, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

The Verge first reported the news yesterday. The publication also obtained a statement from Google on the action:

“As with any acquisition, we’ve spent some time evaluating the Webpass business. As a result of our analysis, we’ve made the decision to wind down Webpass operations in Boston,” a spokesperson from Access told The Verge. Access is the subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet that runs Google Fiber. “We’ll work with customers and partners to minimize disruption, and there will be no immediate impacts to their Webpass service. We continue to see strong subscriber response across the rest of the Webpass portfolio, including successful launches in Denver and Seattle in 2017.”

Webpass’ withdrawal from the Boston market is notable since fixed wireless startup Starry used Boston to refine its technology and business model—offering 200 Mbps for $50 per month—before announcing earlier this month that it would expand to 16 additional major U.S. markets. And Verizon in 2016 struck an agreement to bring Fios to Boston via a $300 million, six-year investment plan that will replace the city's aging copper network infrastructure with fiber—Verizon will also leverage that build-out for its eventual 5G network.

Verizon and Comcast are Boston’s two major wired internet service providers.

Related: Industry Voices—Sachs: The rumors of Google Fiber’s death have been greatly exaggerated

That Webpass is leaving Boston is just the latest in a long string of actions by Google to refine and stabilize its troubled Google Fiber efforts. Initially launched in 2010, Google Fiber promised to build out 1 Gbps fiber services to select cities across the country. But Google in 2016 paused that build-out amid layoffs and a management exodus.

As a result, many saw the company’s acquisition of fixed wireless player Webpass as a strategy to replace expensive fiber build-outs with cheaper wireless deployments. Although Webpass did expand in Denver and Seattle last year, the company also saw the departure of its chief executive Charles Barr.

Webpass was founded in 2003 and early last year said it offers service to “tens of thousands” of customers across its markets in part by offering fixed wireless service on licensed and unlicensed frequencies stretching across the 6, 11, 18, 23, 24, 60, 70 and 80 GHz bands.

To be clear, though, Google’s wireless ambitions aren’t limited to Webpass. Indeed, the company promises to be a major vendor of database services for the 3.5 GHz CBRS band, and recently helped finance a study backing shared usage of the 6 GHz band.