Google on Tuesday took the wraps off its official private wireless networking offering. The company said it will sell the service directly to enterprise customers in a move that could put Google in direct competition with Ericsson, Verizon, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and others.
Google said its new "private networking solutions portfolio" is based on its previously announced "Google Distributed Cloud Edge." That product, introduced last year, essentially allows enterprises and other customers to run the Google Cloud inside their own locations.
Google announced a handful of partners that will sell its new private networking solutions portfolio: Betacom, Boingo, Celona, Crown Castle and Kajeet. Each brings a specific perspective to the effort.
For example, Betacom is a startup that touts an "as a service" business model for private 5G networking, while Boingo and Crown Castle offer extensive engineering resources for deploying widespread cellular networks, both indoors and outdoors. Startup Celona offers its own range of self-branded small cells and other access points that enterprise customers can install indoors or outdoors.
Google positioned its new offering as an alternative to corporate Wi-Fi networks that the company said might not meet enterprise customers' needs for reliability, security and coverage.
"For example, manufacturers can deploy a private network across a large factory site bridging operations, automation, and IoT devices, with robust baseline connectivity and support for next-generation functionality such as predictive maintenance and quality control through computer vision analytics," the company explained. "Building and venue owners can use private networks to improve occupant safety, reduce costs and lower energy consumption via smart-building applications, and deliver new occupant and visitor experiences. And critically, cellular networks' built-in security provides peace of mind for data privacy in a way that other approaches do not."
Google noted that enterprises in the US can use the unlicensed 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band for their private networking operations. That's noteworthy because Google has long offered spectrum-management services for that band.
Google enters the chat
Google is the latest major technology company to jump into the private wireless networking market. Indeed, a veritable battle royale of competition is shaping up as big wireless network operators such as Verizon and AT&T compete with cloud computing companies like Microsoft, AWS and now Google; startups like Celona and Betacom; systems integrators like Dell and HPE; cellular equipment vendors like Ericsson and Nokia; industrial equipment providers like Siemens and Honeywell; and traditional enterprise networking vendors like Cisco and Motorola Solutions.
However, the lines between all the competitors are decidedly unclear. For example, network operators have often partnered with cloud computing companies to offer private wireless networking products and services to enterprises. Similarly, small software startups frequently partner with large hardware suppliers to round out their own private wireless networking offerings. Executives in the space often argue that a certain amount of cooperation will be required to fully cash in on the private wireless networking opportunity, given that few companies offer the entire range of necessary products and services.
It's also clear, though, that some players will come out ahead, while others will come up short. Thus, tracking the companies working to supply services directly to enterprises – like Google – is important since they're hoping to be the primary connection between enterprise customers and other vendors.
Google's entry into the space is also interesting because the company is working to entice mobile network operators to run their networking and operations software in its cloud, via Google's Anthos for Telecom strategy.
How the private wireless networking space shakes out is anyone's guess. But in these early days, it's clear that the market is up for grabs, and every player is hoping to snatch a piece of the pie.
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