Google plans to enter mobile network market
March 12, 2015
Google's head of new products Sundar Pichai has announced that Google plans to become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in a move that could significantly strengthen its position in M2M and IoT markets.
It is likely that Google intends to use its mobile operation to develop and hone new features of its technologies, including but not restricted to Android and Chrome. Google's X research subsidiary is developing a number of IoT related projects, including Google Glass, Google Car and Web of Things, which are all likely to benefit from the company's move into mobile.
Rumours have circulated that Google planned on moving into providing mobile network services since at least April 2014. In December, there was a groundswell of speculation that Google was about to make an announcement that it had arranged a deal with one of the tier-one operators.
Pichai, who has responsibility within Google for Android, Chrome OS and Chromebook, said Google was aiming at breaking down the barriers of how connectivity worked. But the company does not intend to become to be a “carrier at scale”, according to Pichai.
Google is conducting industrial internet research at its semi-secret Google[x] facility, which is run separately from the rest of the company, and is overseen by Sergey Brin, one of the two Google founders. Several of the research projects Google[x] undertakes have a large M2M and IoT angle, including Google Glass and Google Car. But it is the research facility's Web of Things project that most closely occupies the industrial internet space, with its aim of providing the software framework to integrate the IoT into Google's modern graph computing and machine learning environments such as Dremel and Pregel.
Google is already undertaking a similar exercise to its projected mobile operation with its Google Fiber service. Initially restricted to Kansas City, then expanded to Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, Google Fiber is now being expanded to a further 34 cities in the USA. Most of the cities selected are academic and research centres in the southern states of the USA. The company has discussed offering free Wifi in these cities.
US mobile operator Sprint and German firm T-Mobile are believed to be Google's existing partners. Both are major multinational mobile operators. Sprint is the fourth largest US wireless network operator. The company also operates through a number of subsidiaries such as Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Assurance Wireless. T-Mobile is one of the largest mobile operators in Europe, known in some parts of Europe as Telekom, and also provides mobile services through MVNOs such as Virgin.
It is unlikely that Google plans to go head-to-head with any of the major wireless operators. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Pichai said: “Partners like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in the USA are what powers most of our Android phones. And the model works extremely well for us. And so there’s no reason for us to course correct.”