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Google Confirms Scaled-Down MVNO PlansGoogle Confirms Scaled-Down MVNO Plans

Google SVP Sundar Pichai said at MWC that the software giant won't be a carrier at scale, but will work with its wireless partners to offer its service to innovate on communications.

Sarah Thomas

March 2, 2015

3 Min Read
Google Confirms Scaled-Down MVNO Plans

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2015 -- A Google senior vice president has confirmed the Android maker's plans to be a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the US with more details to be revealed in the coming months.

Speaking here in Barcelona, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) SVP of Products Sundar Pichai said that the company doesn't intend to be a carrier at scale, but it is working with its existing partners, and "you'll see some of our ideas come to fruit in the next few months."

A rumor resurfaced recently that Google would launch its own wireless service using a combination of WiFi and MVNO deals with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. to wholesale their network access. According to a Verge live chat of his talk Monday, Pichai didn't name names, though he all but confirmed the report, saying Google is at the stage that it needs to think of hardware, software and connectivity together. (See T-Mobile: Google & Dish Could Be 'Interesting' Partners, Google Searching for 5G Wireless Engineer and Verizon Ready for Google MVNO Challenge.)

When asked by Bloomberg Businessweek's Brad Stone if AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless would have a problem with this, Pichai said that he's talked to all the wireless operators about this and is working with some partners to do what it's doing.

"Carriers in the US are what powers most of our Android phones and that model works really well for us," he said, according to the Verge. When asked if Google's goal was to lower wireless prices, Pichai added, "we're trying to show innovations, like calls automatically reconnecting if someone drops on one end. Those are the kinds of ideas we're pursuing with this project."

For more on mobile network strategies, visit the dedicated LTE content channel here on Light Reading.

According to Pichai, what Google is interested in doing in the wireless space is similar to the approach it's taken to handset development and mobile broadband. Google makes its own line of Nexus devices, but still works with all its partners to provide the operating system for their own devices. In the mobile broadband market, it offers Google Fiber Inc. in several markets as a way, it says, to spur on the market on and bring faster speeds for all. (See Google's Nexus 6 'Phablet' Is LTE-A Ready and Does Google Fiber Have Renewed Euro Ambitions?)

Google sees the same role for itself in the wireless industry, even if the mobile operators aren't likely to take kindly to the new competition. This is hardly the extent of its plans though -- the software giant is also working on bringing connectivity to the masses via Project Loon connectivity balloons, along with airplanes that will work with the balloons, under Project Titan. It's also exploring drones via its acquisition last year of Titan Aerospace, and it's pursuing satellite communications with a $1 billion investment in SpaceX, which plans to launch satellites into space to beam connectivity down below. (See The New Internet Space Race: Google's Final Frontier?, SpaceX Nabs $1B From Google for Satellite Internet, Google Working With FAA on US Drone License and Broadband: It's All Hot Air for Google.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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