Google is dabbling in the future of 5G with its recent Alpental acquisition

All of Google’s services — from Google Docs to YouTube — depend on fast network connections to perform well. And with the Internet going mobile, Google is very interested in technologies that will speed up wireless communications. That’s why the search giant has bought a small 5G cellular technology company called Alpental Technologies. The deal was actually done weeks ago, but Google decided to keep it on the down-low. The search giant isn’t saying why it bought the company or what it has in mind for the technology. But Google has made investments in network technologies many times over the years. It once invested in “dark fiber,” then a lot of Wi-fi tech, then hot air balloons. Then it launched a consumer fiber network of its own. So it’s no huge surprise that the company is investing in next generation cellular tech.

Google has acquired Alpental Technologies, a Seattle-area startup looking to build wireless technologies that may some day become part of our 5G networks. GeekWire first reported on the deal on Thursday, and Google confirmed it with me Friday, though it didn’t offer up any additional details. The news renewed speculation that Google will dive into mobile networking, challenging carriers on their own turf. That’s definitely a possibility, but we shouldn’t read too much into this particular acquisition. As I’ve written before, 5G is a much different animal than 4G, which can pretty much be summed up as a single radio technology: LTE. 5G hasn’t even been defined by the mobile industry yet, but the companies and researchers that are pursuing those standards agree that 5G isn’t going to be a single network technology. Rather, it’s going to be a mishmash of different radios, new bands of spectrum and even the melding of different kinds of networks using licensed and unlicensed airwaves to reach users. Basically, the industry is using every tool it can find to cram more capacity into future networks.

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