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What Would Google Wireless Look Like; And What Problems Would Lie Ahead?

November 16, 2012 - Written By Tom Dawson

When the news broke that Google might well be working towards becoming a Wireless Carrier there was a whole lot of  excitement floating around at the prospect of being able to have truly unadulterated access to Google’s services wherever. I can say that I’d certainly enjoy using a Wireless Carrier that doesn’t restrict what I do with the data allowance I pay for and does away with the crazy subsidy model that is so prevalent in the US. I’m sure a great many of you feel the same and we could all do with a better Wireless Industry in the US.

As good as this all sounds, Google aren’t going to sail into the position of being a carrier and even they were to get through all that red tape, there’s no telling quite how Google will act when they have Google Wireless under their arm as well. Google have made it quite clear over the last few years that they’re not impressed with the current state of the Wireless industry as well as their stance on net Neutrality as well. From these we can draw some predictions on just how Google might act as a carrier and what they might have to overcome to get there.

Competition is A Brilliant Thing

As a Brit, the US Wireless Industry is insane to me. I’ve been following it for some time now and now that I’m here, writing for a US website I’m learnt more about the Wireless Industry in the US and it seems even crazier than it did a few years ago. Here in the UK I can take my phone to whichever carrier I so choose, through the wonders of GSM, and I get cheaper and faster home broadband into the home. I’m not bashing the US industry here, hell, the States is the only place to go for true 4G! But, the reason why we have it a little better than it is in the States is because of competition. A long time ago, British Telecom held the keys to everything when it came to home broadband but the Government ordered them to unbundle their wires and years later I can go and get Internet from tens of different sources.

It’s not quite the same when it comes to Wireless but, GSM is something that makes more sense when it comes to a free and open landscape and the fact that I can go ahead and go to any carrier I want with my phone makes O2, Vodafone et al work harder to keep for another 2 years and another 2 years after that. If Google were to get in the game, it would shake things up no end, as a lot of people look to Google as “the Internet” and more and more people want to get access to the net on the go so, where do you get your wireless data from? Well, why not the company that is “the Internet”? Such a household name bringing unlimited Data will make AT&T and Verizon work even harder for your hard earned dollars and unfortunately, could wipe out Sprint and T-Mobile altogether.

All That Red Tape…

While Monopolies have had an easier ride in the last few years, there’s still some concern that having too much invested in one area might become a bad thing for the economy, we saw the T-Mobile and AT&T merger fall through for the same reason. While Google might be somewhat of a dark horse here, I don’t think the FTC are going to be thrilled with a company that is pretty much 90% of the Internet as well as a company that owns on of America’s last handset manufacturers to become a Wireless Carrier as well. Even that might be too much for the regulators as Google are already in the spotlight for their complete control over Search and I wonder how much more they’ll be willing to put up with.

If, somehow, Google were to get through the Red Tape then what would happen to the rest of the industry, how long do you think it’d be before we saw any real chance from Verizon or AT&T?

So, What Would Google Wireless Be Like?

We’re all ready and waiting to tell Google to “shut up and take our money” but I wonder what the company would be like if they had control of their own wirless carrier? Well, for one, I think they’d be keen to get rid of the strange contract/subsidy model that is going on right now and ask customers to put more up front the hardware but in the long run, your wallet will be thanking you. It’s not a secret that when you buy a phone on Verizon on contract for $199 or whoever else, that the phone in question costs you a whole lot more than it would full price, by the end of your contract. I think it’s this sort of culture that Google wants to put a stop to, and to bring in an era where it’s almost “bring your own phone”. That sort of thing has been successful for T-Mobile and their constant courting of iPhone users because, by and large, they leave their customers to it, which is something that I think is important in today’s climate. It’s so common for us to go to whatever website we want and download as much as we want at home so, why shouldn’t it be the same when we’re on the go? If the Internet is heading mobile then so should the same ideals come with it, too.

Google will be wanting to offer something close to nothing but Data and have voice and SMS go through it, using Google Voice, presumably but, it’s tough to see how they would have a network strong enough to do it. Of course, Data is something that will be integral for the service and Google should be offering unlimited Data as standard, this could incur a higher monthly price but, I think we’d all be happy paying for more, if we actually got more. Unfettered access to the Internet will be another one of Google’s key sales point and it’d be something that Verizon and AT&T couldn’t match.

When it comes down to tech, Google will be looking offer it’s service on GSM and they favor international bands so expect something similar to what T-Mobile offer in terms of bands and 3G.

Sign Me Up!

Not so fast, it’s going to be a long time before we see anything of such a service from Google but, thanks to the openness of the FCC, if this is happening we should see documentation of the stuff come into the public eye. When that happens, you can be sure that we’ll be ready and waiting to bring you all the details. If anything, 2013 is shaping up to be quite a year…