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CTIA 2011: Sprint's Google Voice Gamble

12:00 PM -- ORLANDO, Fla. -- International CTIA WIRELESS 2011 -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) apparently knows the axiom about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. In a bid to attract more customers, the carrier has teamed up with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to integrate its Voice service into Sprint's mobile service. (See Sprint Integrates Google Voice.)

While mobile operators have traditionally feared over-the-top services like Google Voice, there's been a sea change of late that has the two competing industries working together more. Verizon Wireless has an agreement to offer Skype Ltd. on its network, and the latest rumors have the partnership expanding to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) next. But, Sprint's integration is the most aggressive move yet. (See CES 2011: Skype Video on Verizon LTE Phones and Google Gives Telcos a Wakeup Call.)

The partnership means Sprint customers can consolidate phone numbers and use their mobile phone numbers as their Google Voice digits. The service rings all of a users' numbers, as well as transcribes voice mails to text, customizes greetings down to the caller and offers free conference calls and cheap international access.

I think Sprint is smart to get ahead of the curve and partner with Google Voice. I've always thought VoIP was an "if you can't beat them, join them" type of service, and service providers could either get disintermediated by players that go over the top or work together in a way that's mutually beneficial.

Google's deal with Sprint is definitely good for the search giant to expand its Voice user base. Now we'll have to see if Sprint can make the integration work in its favor too. (See Google's Listening .)

[Ed. Note: Just for fun, this announcement suggests we could throw a new possibility into the post-AT&T/T-Mobile US Inc. deal speculation -– Google acquires Sprint? Anyone?]

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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