A vision for Google Wireless and the troubles it would face

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
A vision for Google Wireless and the troubles it would face
Yesterday, we heard rumors that Google is attempting to build its own wireless carrier. Apparently, Google has been in talks with Dish Network as well as other companies to try to find a partner in building a mobile carrier. The first reaction from many is that this would be a great idea, but there are some trouble spots that Google will have to watch out for if it does try to create the so-called G-Mobile wireless carrier.

First of all, we might not be able to see the awesome G-Mobile name on stores around the world. At least, we won't be able to see it until Google buys the name rights from the Mongolian wireless carrier that already has that name, so for now, we'll refer to it as Google Wireless. But, that's a minor point. The real roadblock to Google creating its own carrier is the same one all big companies come across: 

Anti-trust and Monopoly Laws

There is a reason why Verizon, AT&T and the others don't make their own handsets or mobile operating systems, because a company that controls the whole line from top to bottom would be at risk of violating monopoly laws. Monopoly law has become a bit more lax these days, and vertical monopolies have simply been rebranded as "vertical integration". But, Google is already in the spotlight over its globally popular search product, and owning a mobile carrier, a mobile handset manufacturer, and a mobile OS might be reaching too far for one company. It has been mentioned many times that Google could just outright purchase T-Mobile, but this would bring government scrutiny. This is likely why Google wants a partnership, both to offset cost and liability, but it's still a tricky situation for a company that's already on the government's radar. 

More competition, lower cost

Still, if Google can skirt the legality of it all, having another competitor to Verizon and AT&T would certainly be a good thing. If you live in a metropolitan area, you likely have choice of wireless providers, and can save money by finding the right one. But, many people in rural America don't have that choice. At best, rural areas can choose between AT&T and Verizon alone, but some areas only have access to one or the other. Google would not only add competition, but Google could drive down costs more than many others, because of the way Google does business. 

Google has always been the company to come in and offer a product for free when possible, and far cheaper than the competition any time free isn't an option. We've seen it with Gmail making e-mail storage free, and online storage much cheaper. We've seen it with Google Maps making navigation data free. We've seen it with Android as a free operating system. And, even in hardware, we've seen Google selling devices like the Nexus 7 and Nexus 4 basically at cost, instead of with the huge markup that is normally added. 

As we've said, Google isn't a product or services company when it comes to the bottom line. In that regard, Google is an advertising company. Google has begun to pull in revenue from the Google Play Store, and Motorola, but neither is really profitable as yet. If anything, Motorola could very well be losing money, and the Play Store might be about breaking even. But, that doesn't matter because of the huge profits generated from Google's advertising platforms. 

In the wireless carrier space, this could mean that Google could offer cheaper service plans to go along with its already cheaper hardware. There have been rumors that Google would even offer free data for those that use Google services, but that doesn't really make sense as it seems to go against Net Neutrality rules, and Google has always been one of the biggest proponents of Net Neutrality. 

What would Google Wireless look like?

Sure, we all know that Google could offer cheaper service and cheaper hardware, but that only goes so far if the selection isn't there. It's all well and good to speculate about an Android-only, Nexus-only, or Nexus/Motorola-only wireless carrier from Google, but there is almost no chance that is what Google would actually offer. Remember, in order to keep in line with lawmakers, Google wouldn't be able to both undercut the competition, and only offer its own products. Instead, what we'd likely see is the vision for mobile that Google has been working towards since the Nexus One. 

We would expect that Google Wireless would be a carrier that breaks the current contract/subsidy model. Customers may have to pay a bit more up front for the hardware, but the service plans would be off-contract, and much cheaper than the competition. The phones would all be unlocked, and customers would be free to bring their existing phones, including BlackBerry and iPhones. The real question would be if Google would directly sell these devices through the carrier. We would expect to see some BlackBerry devices, but Apple's subsidy demands may keep the iPhone out of the Google Stores. And, there would no doubt be Android devices. Not just Nexus or Motorola, but all Android devices from all manufacturers (because if nothing else, Google doesn't want to be seen as playing favorites with Android. We've seen that plenty with the forgettable Motorola moves). That's what we'd expect to see sold directly from Google Wirless, but any phone would be usable, as long as it were compatible with Google's wireless bands. 

As for the wireless bands, Google prefers global standards, so we would expect that the network would be built on GSM/HSPA+ and LTE. LTE of course would be the trouble spot as different regions use different frequency bands. The USA uses the 700MHz spectrum, while the majority of the rest of the world uses the 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2600MHz spectrum, and a few others. Even worse, within those frequencies, there are different bands being used by different carriers. For example, Verizon and AT&T both use the 700MHz frequency, but Verizon is band 13 and AT&T is band 17, so the same radio wouldn't work for both. 

The service plans would be cheaper, but also Google is a proponent of openness, so we'd expect the service plans to be laid out somewhat like Ting Mobile, where you know exactly what it will cost, and there will be no overage charges. Part of this could very well be with a big push to make the entire carrier data-driven, meaning no traditional minute or texting limits, because it is all VoIP, and all done over a data connection. Google has been slowly building up the VoIP options in Android which would work with this idea, and then of course there is always Google Voice for texting services. 

The killer feature that we'd love to see, but would be hardest to pull off would be for Google to break the model of international calling, and international roaming. It seems reasonable to expect that Google Voice would be a big part of this endeavor, and if all customers were automatically signed up for Google Voice, that would mean international calling rates that are miles and miles cheaper than the competition. International roaming is a much more difficult thing to offer though, so we're not sure that could change much. 


Google isn't the first to come up with the idea to run its own wireless network. Steve Jobs had wanted the same thing for Apple back when the iPhone first launched. Jobs planned a mobile network built on WiFi, but couldn't get the project off the ground. Google doesn't have the need for control that Jobs did, so the possibilities are greater that Google could actually pull this off. 

There are definitely a lot of ways in which the wireless carrier model can be broken and rebuilt, and Google is definitely a company that could do a lot of that work. It's a great dream to imagine a wireless carrier with inexpensive hardware and services, that offers unlocked worldphones, and does away with traditional carrier greed points like per minute calling, international calling, roaming, and texting fees. We would love nothing more than to see a carrier, Google or not, that offers everything over a data connection, and makes the whole experience more efficient. In a perfect world, Google Wireless would act more like a wired ISP than a mobile carrier: you pay for the data pipe, and then do with it what you like - voice, sharing, etc. 

Unfortunately, even if Google does find itself a partner in this project, there is a lot of work to do before there will be a real wireless carrier born from it. Google would have to make its way through the tricky legal field of being a mobile hardware manufacturer, and mobile software developer that plans to also own its own mobile wireless carrier. And, on top of that, there is the cost of building the network itself. So, even if Google finds a partner, and plans all of the things we dream about for a wireless carrier, we still may not actually see the company launch for a couple years. 



1. mozes316

Posts: 144; Member since: Sep 30, 2011

I always wanted this to happen. Nice article.

30. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Maybe, Google partnership would put an end to crapware preloaded into phone and a Carrier branding on the phone's home button. We can only hope.

32. HäckeMáte

Posts: 168; Member since: Feb 28, 2012

Right... Cuz when you use youtube they never have ads. And when you do a google search, no ads there either.

37. longhairbilly

Posts: 66; Member since: Aug 23, 2010

How do you compare bloatware installed on the phone to ads?

38. HäckeMáte

Posts: 168; Member since: Feb 28, 2012

Carriers make their money on preloaded software (bloatware) and google makes theirs on ads. Either way there will always be unwanted junk preloaded. Just like Nexus devices are preloaded with google talk, so what happens if you use liveIM and never use Talk? Cant uninstall. Luckily google maps is the best navigation out there, so no worries there, but some people will never use google voice (texting app) or google wallet, or google goggles, etc etc. My point is. Either way bloatware is inevitable. Less bloatware would be nice though

39. mozes316

Posts: 144; Member since: Sep 30, 2011

I see what you're saying, but Nexus' are made for the FULL Google experience, and most people that go for the Nexus are expecting and wanting that, therefore expecting the Google TALK and Google Search, ect... No one buys a "Droid" from Verizon hoping to get the Verizon experience of overpriced ringtones and overpriced mobile navigation apps.

2. cncrim

Posts: 1590; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Very good Article. In my opinion, if google does go on and become carrier it will definite good as far as price go for the customer however I don't know how bad/good it will be in the long term.

3. dsDoan

Posts: 235; Member since: Dec 28, 2011

Sounds dreamy.

4. nak1017

Posts: 328; Member since: Jan 08, 2010

Here's to hoping this comes true...

5. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Very nice article michael..... I din expect this much when i saw the head lines of article...... In india there is no carriers problem.....they are just service providers......so google can easily step into india......if they do....then i will be very happy... you are welcome google.....

6. Aeires unregistered

I don't know why, but the picture of all those green Andy's makes me smile. FCC would really have to be convinced, and of course, all the carriers would gripe and moan like never before. If they could make it happen, just about everything we know about carriers would have to change. Sign me up.

31. laheelahee

Posts: 213; Member since: Apr 09, 2012

reminds me of toy story. lol

7. Fuego84

Posts: 357; Member since: May 13, 2012

A super Wi-Fi phone no cellular bands. All super Wi-Fi network. Calls over Skype or other voip services.

8. JunBringer

Posts: 138; Member since: Oct 01, 2012

Yes plz!

9. gwuhua1984

Posts: 1237; Member since: Mar 06, 2012

I absolutely love this idea and been waiting for this. Google's involvement will always bring tough competition to the market which always benefits the consumers. The only thing about this is it seems very monopolistic, and the carrier will fight back using monopoly as the reason.

10. New_Enthusiast

Posts: 3; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

I always love Micheal's articles. I can instantly recognize them because of his bold section headings. Good job on this one! I also would sign up for G-Mobile right away. Hopefully it would be a service that goes around the world. Not just a US carrier, a global one that uses the same frequencies across the board. Updates would come lightning fast. And the data speeds would be crazy. If they can offer Google Fiber with 1000Mb a second then their mobile speeds would be through the roof. So super cheap global coverage with super fast data and almost instant updates on all devices? Count me in.

11. MartyK

Posts: 1043; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

Wow, first cable in my neighborhood, now possible wireless service?, call me G-Man or G-Lover!..hahahaha

12. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

All I heard was Android experience free from carrier bloat and no contract! If Google can actually get this off the ground, we can finally buy whatever phone you like and bring it to their network, something that Google has been keen on doing since the inception of the Nexus devices. There will be some serious opposition from VZW, AT&T, Sprint and the like because of Googles all encompassing reach, but hey competition is competition as long as it plays by the rules the Government sets forth. I see problems in China though, no two ways about that right there. Dreaming of low cost cell service on a phone I chose because it fit what I wanted instead of having to choose phone by carrier. OEM would just have to make a phone that is compatible with world standards. One thing how is it LTE radios aren't able to just switch channels within the same band? Technology reaches this far, yet we have radios in cell phones that can't do multiple bands, that is mind boggling. Hope Qualcomm and Broadcom are up to the task of building baseband radios that can switch with a simple software update.

13. wgaurav

Posts: 22; Member since: Dec 17, 2010

Nice Article. I think, if Google ever hitches with Dish it will use some use surrogate network like Sprint(Multimode antenna) to host the spectrum. Also Google would launch more of a all data network rather than going in to legacy networks as it perfectly complements the Google's business.

14. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Google FTW !!!

15. toiletcleaner

Posts: 224; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

Apple will be the #1 to tried to stop Google. for Apple this will be the end of the line. Wall Street is focusing on Apple stocks and Google getting his own Wireless services, apple will see his end

16. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

Dont they have enough spare cash to just Buy T-mobile..?

23. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The point is that Google doesn't want to outright own a carrier, because that would bring the government real fast. Google is better served to just have a partnership with a company that owns the wireless spectrum.

28. XPERIA-KNIGHT unregistered


33. nofear

Posts: 151; Member since: Jun 22, 2012

Then it will be GT-mobile.

17. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

one word carrier subsidy.. well more like 2 words.. lol

20. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

Then Apple buys AT&T

22. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Well, they have the money, that's for sure.

21. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

This would be an excellent idea! I hope it goes through. I always wondered why Apple doesn't do this? An exclusive Apple network with cheaper plans for iPhones. Maybe because there aren't that many iPhones being used, so they wouldn't generate that much income from it? But I used the words Apple and cheaper in one sentence. This comment is now invalid.

25. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Steve Jobs wanted to do it using WiFi, but couldn't get the idea off the ground.

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