Welcome!

@ThingsExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: @ThingsExpo, Java IoT, Mobile IoT, Agile Computing, Release Management , SDN Journal

@ThingsExpo: Article

Google Can Run Wireless Industry by Proxy

No need to become a wireless carrier

Some people really want Google to be a wireless carrier. The most recent speculative episode was early in April when The Information published an exclusive suggesting that Google might be thinking about an MVNO deal with Verizon or AT&T, based on comments by people who were unnamed (but might have been close to Google).

Now I don't want to be picky, but the notion that Google might want to become a wireless carrier has been talked about by unnamed "experts" in bars for many years, and lots of that speculation has been published with enthusiasm. It is rather evident that becoming a wireless carrier might be something that Google (and Apple or Samsung) could seriously consider. For Google especially the pairing of wireless with fixed broadband access might seem attractive, but it's hardly a novel concept. Note that if any of those companies want to move into the mobile wireless carrier space in a hurry, then an MVNO deal with one of the major U.S. wireless operators is the only way to do it. Google doesn't own the spectrum needed to provide nationwide cellular coverage, so renting another carrier's capacity is the only practical way forward. No new insights there.

And speaking of spectrum: it was in 2007 that people were speculating that Google's intention was to compete as a wireless carrier when Google announced it would bid on the newly available 700MHz bands. Why bid for spectrum unless you want to become a wireless company? People were asking themselves, "Could Google kill the cellphone industry?" Eventually it became clear that Google's objective was not to become a carrier, but to ensure that at least some carriers were required to offer spectrum that would be open to any device. The ploy sort of succeeded. In the January 2008 auctions, Google managed to push the price up and the purchasers were committed to some openness, but not with any enthusiasm. Google didn't have to buy spectrum to make an impact - it just had to say it would bid (a ruse dubbed the "Google Effect" by one team of researchers.) Chunks of this spectrum were still being hawked from carrier to carrier as recently as January 2014 (one careful owner, good condition, lightly used).

When Google decided to go into the device business in 2008 with the launch of its first Android phone, people thought that might be a clue that Google was still aiming to be a carrier. But no, Google actually just wanted to go into the device business. Speculation rose again with the launch of Google's own branded phone, the Nexus One, in January 2010, but again we found that Google's aim was just to disrupt the phone distribution model (in which it didn't succeed) - not to become a wireless carrier.

And let's not forget the excitement around Google's 2011 MVNO experiment in Spain, which was going to lead to Google setting up MVNOs across Europe. It didn't happen right away, but that didn't stop the same rumor emerging when the EU promised (or threatened) in May 2012 to get tough on excessive roaming charges.  It was speculated this would create a wireless opportunity not just for Google, but for Apple too.

Google is already one of the dominant players in wireless. In July 2013, Google Play overtook the Apple Store as the leader in number of mobile app downloads. Google's Android OS is now the best-selling mobile device platform in every major world market. Google Voice has hardly started to achieve its potential yet, but in principle it could become a cross-platform, multi-carrier asset when Google decides to give the product some serious attention. And in 2012 when Google acquired Motorola Mobility, it rather quickly sucked all the patents out of it and now plans to sell off the Motorola manufacturing business to Lenovo, suggesting that Google has interests wider than the mundane world of running factories.

Similarly, it's likely that Google has less interest than fans might think in the mundane world of running wireless networks. Carrying the bits safely across the network is an essential and noble trade, but increasingly it's not where the real action is. Being a wireless carrier is geographically constrained, subject to regulation in most countries and relatively labor-intensive. It also requires operational skill sets that Google may not have or wish to acquire. If Google can run the wireless industry by proxy, through deals and partnerships, and by exercising influence through platforms, apps and over-the-top services, that might be more fun than becoming a ‘me too' wireless carrier and picking fights with the incumbents. If Google ever decides to become a wireless carrier it will not be because they feel an urge to become a conventional phone company. It will be because they have dreamed up a disruptive business model that will shake up the market. And that will be news, when it happens.

Interested in learning more about these industry developments (and rumors)? Tweet us your questions!

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud, BUSS. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda was CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. At MetraTech, Esmeralda was responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution for enterprise and SaaS products, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of resource and service control software, now part of Extreme Networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and G...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
CloudEXPO New York 2018, colocated with DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time t...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.