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Google Wants to Become a Wireless Carrier, But It's Not What You Think

Illustration for article titled Google Wants to Become a Wireless Carrier, But Its Not What You Think

We've long heard whisperings that Google wanted to become a wireless carrier, and over the weekend, a Google executive confirmed those rumors. Intriguing! Just imagine Google Fiber—but for mobile. However, Google's not trying to compete with the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world. Think of it more like Nexus for networks.

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Long story short, Google will announce a new initiative to become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) in the coming months. (MVNO's are companies like TracFone that buy up network services from infrastructure owners at wholesale and sell them to the public at a discount.) Google's Sundar Pichai revealed the project at Mobile World Congress and likened the initiative to its Nexus program for hardware.

In other words, wading into wireless waters would allow Google to do for wireless what Nexus does for hardware: experimentation on a small scale. You can also compare it to what Google Fiber is doing with high-speed internet. "We don't intend to be network operator at scale," Pichai said in Barcelona.

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So Google's not exactly going to face off against the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world, but it is going to cozy up to them. Like Nexus, it'd be more like a Google-designed wireless plan but actually delivered by Verizon.

That could bear big implications for Android. The specifics are unknown, so that's just speculation at this point, but you can imagine how Google might design the operating system differently if it also controls the data plan. For now, though, it'll be an intriguing experiment to watch—not to mention the Googleverse expanding even deeper into your communications.

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DISCUSSION

It really really depends on who they choose for MVNO. The smart bet would be Verizon, simply for the coverage area. But MVNO on Verizon is also more expensive.

I sincerely hope they don't go ATT like Amazon did. Not that Amazon Fire Phone was great, but gimping it just to save a buck on MVNO services was a bad move. (Among other bad moves for that one)

Going MVNO is a great way to break in. Then if it is working, they can start overbuilding, or even set up networks in the same places where Google Fiber in and ride the permits they can where they already have them in place.

But it still remains to be seen what the details are. Again, to get the MOST coverage, it should be Verizon. Anything else would basically just show shortcomings of those other networks nationwide.

BIG FUCKING EDIT: Apparently it's going to be Sprint and T-Mobile. What an incredibly stupid mistake. Too bad, I would have tried it on Verizon.