Telecoms beware, a new player with almost unimaginably deep pockets is stepping onto the field and potentially changing its pitch entirely.
Google has announced that it intends to roll out its own mobile network in the U.S. marketplace, because as it turns out, the current players aren’t innovative enough for the search giant. Google feels that the slow pace of advancement is leaving them unable to pursue the programs they want to build and connect to all the people they want to reach.
U.S. broadband access and speed lag behind their European counterparts, a situation that some analysts believe is actually holding Google back. Google’s operating theory here is that by offering a smaller run at a mobile network they will essentially light a fire under American consumer to demand their current providers get on the stick, technologically speaking.
Google says its network operations will be small but educational for established telecom players, according to Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice-president of products.
“We have always tried to push the boundaries of what’s next. It is a project we are doing,” he said in a speech.
“We don’t intend to be a network operator at scale,” Pichai told an audience at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.“We will do it at a small enough scale and hopefully people see what we are doing, and carrier partners, if they think our ideas are good, can adopt them.”
Mr Pichai said that Google did not see itself as a threat, but instead as a laboratory for ideas that it can then scalably introduce along the Google product line.
Smaller carriers – Sprint and T-Mobile — seem like they may be interested in playing ball. Larger operators like Verizon? Not so much.
The largest U.S. telecom provider has warned that the traffic spike that any deal with Google would necessarily create would in turn put strain on the infrastructure of the smaller operators and risk leaving all customers on the network with a substandard service.
Plus, some analysts simply don’t believe that Google has set its eyes on the telecom industry’s turf with purely philanthropic motives – and that Google does not come to educate, but to disrupt and eventually supplant.
“What we think it’s trying to do is push the existing carriers to speed things up, be more innovative and introduce new features,” Martin Garner, an analyst at CCS Insight, told the Financial Times. “However, there is the credible threat of doing something bigger, if Google felt it had to.”
If Google does enter the business, however, it will come after many attempts to force the telecoms industry to improve standards.
The search group is rolling out its super fast Google Fiber broadband product in more than 30 cities, prompting companies such as AT&T to follow suit.
Google is also working with Vodafone, Telefónica and Telstra to begin testing balloons that can stay airborne for six months and provide high-speed 4G connectivity in areas where it was difficult to build traditional cellular masts.