Quick off the mark: Google's network plan

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Google surprised the market yesterday by announcing it was to roll out an ultra high-speed broadband network to households in the US.

The group plans to bring a fibre network with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second to a small number of trial locations across the US, signalling a new direction for the search engine giant. There are no plans to do the same in Britain, a spokesman said.

Google product managers Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly posted the details on the group's corporate blog. They said: "We'll deliver internet speeds of more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today, with 1 gigabit per second, fibre-to-the-home connections." It plans to offer the service "at a competitive price" to at least 50,000 people, although it could be as many 500,000. The move could pit Google against traditional cable network giants such as Verizon and AT&T.

"Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make internet access better and faster for everyone," Ms Ingersoll and Mr Kelly said. They said they hoped developers would work on next generation applications to create services "we can't yet imagine". It also plans to use the experiment to test new ways of building fibre networks.

Google already has a fibre network which links its data centres together in the US. It will use the network to connect to households. Consumers have until 26 March to suggest appropriate locations for the service.

The US is currently looking to develop its broadband infrastructure, with Barack Obama announcing a $7.2bn broadband stimulus package during his first month in office.