Google Wireless Is Pushing the Envelope and Other Companies

Carl Weinschenk
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At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google acknowledged what had been suggested before: It will become a wireless carrier. CNNMoney reports that Google’s Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai said that details will be released in the coming months.

There was a good deal of skepticism when the company announced Google Fiber. Was the company serious? Was it a PR stunt? The reality is that, yes, Google was and is serious about competing with cable MSOs and telephone companies. Indeed, much of what good news there is in the broadband speed sector is directly or indirectly tied to Google’s aggressive stance.

Thus, Google’s wireless service should be assumed to be the real deal. It will be a horse of a different color, however, since the company is not building its own infrastructure. Rather, it will operate on Sprint and T-Mobile networks. In essence, it will be a mobile virtual-network operator (MVNO). But CNNMoney says that Google may be able to undercut the wireless leaders:

Google is expected to pay Sprint and T-Mobile just $2 per gigabyte, according to Macquarie Securities analyst Kevin Smithen. That means Google could choose to provide super-cheap service that gives Verizon (VZ, Tech30) and AT&T (T, Tech30) something to worry about.

It also is clear that what Google has said so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Wired’s Cade Metz reported on the MWC announcement by Pichai in a manner that makes it seem obvious that Google is set to push into new technologies and approaches to wireless. Indeed, it seems that Google Wireless will be more of a real-world experiment than Google Fiber, which as a wireline network looks more or less like a better version of what already exists. Writes Metz:

As time goes on, the company may expand the scope of its ambitions as a wireless carrier, much as it had done with its super-high-speed landline internet service, Google Fiber. But the larger point is that Google’s experiments—if you can call them that—will help push the rest of the market in the same direction. The market is already moving this way thanks to other notable tech names, including mobile carrier T-Mobile, mobile chipmaker Qualcomm, and serial Silicon Valley inventor Steve Perlman, who recently unveiled a faster breed of wireless network known as pCell.

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At the end of the day, Google’s shrewdness and savvy are much to be admired. Robert Hof, who in this Forbes commentary calls Google “the master of the nudge,” points out that the company does what it has to do to push others to create more opportunities for its products and services. Google Wireless is the latest example of this cleverness. Writes Hof:

It’s yet another in a long line of moves by Google to push often recalcitrant industry players along. That includes its Android mobile software (which arguably has become a profit center of sorts if you count some $10 billion in gross app revenues), its Nexus phones and tablets (which surely don’t bring in much if any profit), its fiber broadband service in several cities (probably the closest analog), all the way back to its 2008 bid for radio spectrum (which it lost, perhaps purposely, to get Verizon and others to buy it and eventually expand wireless Internet access).

Google Wireless’ two goals likely will be to do just enough to help push the existing providers to offer better service and to help develop faster and more seamless technology.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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