U.S. wireless carriers finally have something to fear: Google
Call Google “evil” all you want — I personally love how “evil” Google is — but there is no other company on the planet that can shake things up and disrupt the status quo like Google. Armed with a massive advertising business and an uncanny ability to collect and utilize data in amazing ways, Google has time and time again shown us that it’s not afraid to roll the dice and bet big when it comes to breaking into new categories.
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile should all be on high alert, then, because Google is once again rumored to be toying with the idea of launching its own wireless service.
Google Fiber is a perfect example of Google’s willingness to make huge investments in its future with little concern for short-term gain. The company has reportedly spent nearly $100 million rolling Fiber out in Kansas City, which is just one of the two U.S. cities where Google Fiber has launched, with a third on the way.
According to one recent estimate, it will cost Google about $11 billion to cover just 20% of U.S. homes with its Google Fiber broadband service.
Of course, Google has plenty to gain from rolling out its broadband Internet service across the country.
Google Fiber, which provides customers with free 5Mbps Internet access or 1Gbps broadband for $70 per month, makes it easier and often times less expensive for people to access Google services. The more they access Google’s various services, the more money Google makes on ads.
Beyond that, Google Fiber encourages competition among cable service providers, resulting in cheaper TV service for consumers. Why is that a good thing for Google? Cheaper TV bundles free up more cash for households to spend on faster Internet service, thus providing more access to Google services.
And now, we may have just learned about another reason Google Fiber is so important for Google’s future.
A report issued on Thursday suggested that Google is actively working to launch its own wireless service. Details are scarce and obviously nothing has been confirmed, but this was the latest in a series of reports that date back to 2012.
This latest rumor suggests that Google has held talks with at least two wireless carriers, Verizon and Sprint, regarding an MVNO arrangement that would see Google resell access to their networks. This might be considered the path of least resistance for a Google wireless service, which could blanket the country from day one without heavy investments in infrastructure.
In the past, Google reportedly also negotiated with Dish over the possibility of a joint wireless service.
In Thursday’s report from The Information, however, we saw the most interesting tidbit yet regarding Google’s plans. According to the report, Google’s wireless service might also rely on Google Fiber Wi-Fi hotspots for data connectivity and for VoIP calling.
This ties in nicely with reports from 2012 that suggested Google’s wireless service might be data-only, relying on data connections instead of standard channels to deliver voice calls and text messages. Google already has the technology to facilitate this in its pocket thanks to products like Google Voice, which was born from Google’s GrandCentral acquisition back in 2007, as well as Hangouts and the VoIP tech it gained in 2009 when it bought Gizmo5.
Google is piecing together quite a puzzle, it would seem.
(Update: Here’s another nice piece of the puzzle, as noted by Engadget’s Matt Brian.)
Republic Wireless is an example of a wireless service provider that relies on a combination of Wi-Fi networks and cellular networks to provide customers with low-cost wireless service. Is Google planning to build out a similar system that relies multiple network types to deliver its service?
Moreover, will current wireless carriers in the U.S. help Google by providing access to their networks in order to supplement Google’s own Fiber network and other data networks it might lease for Wi-Fi coverage? Such arrangements could see U.S. wireless carriers dig their own graves as Google moves beyond this stopgap cellular solution in the years ahead.
However unlikely or far off these scenarios might seem, U.S. carriers should be positively terrified. If you think T-Mobile is a disruptive force in the wireless industry, wait until Google starts to gain momentum and carriers have no choice but to pivot or bleed.
Google’s goal appears to be nothing short of world domination. The technology giant may be working toward a future where it powers our smartphones, our tablets, our computers, the services we access on our devices and the networks we rely on for connectivity at home and on the go.
All Google, all the time.