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."
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, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading