Google Mulls Wireless Network as Companion to Fiber Deployment

As cable operators accelerate their moves into community WiFi and wireless services, they may face a new Google wireless competitive venture. Google is planning to become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) in markets where it is deploying Google Fiber, and it has begun negotiations with Verizon about becoming a wholesale reseller of Verizon spectrum, according to published reports. Indications are that Google plans to bundle its fiber optic and wireless services as it recruits customers for its combined voice/video/data packages.  

Google's wireless broadband agenda plays well into the expectations that the young audience of "cable-nevers" will lean towards providers that can supply Internet access services via all platforms.  

Verizon's willingness to supply bandwidth makes sense, since most of Google Fiber's initial rollout target markets (Kansas City, Austin, Provo, Atlanta) are not in Verizon FiOS footprints.  Google's recently unveiled list of 34 prospective fiber markets - from Atlanta to San Jose to Portland - also notably stay out of FiOS territory.  

More urgently, the Google wireless initiative - if it actually manifests itself - will arrive as cable is still rethinking its wireless mobile objectives, having failed at several earlier attempts to deploy a "quadruple play" (i.e. video/voice/data plus mobile,  although I contend that such efforts were really just a triple play via both wired and wireless platforms).

Google's new plan would use its fiber network to provide WiFi access points, supplemented by the wireless network service.  The arrangement would give smartphone and tablet user widespread access to Internet and voices services.  More significantly, it would enable Google to sell an omnibus high-speed fiber plus wireless package in local markets, a single-provider service that is likely to appeal to customers frustrated with current their current telecom suppliers.

Google already has public WiFi experience, thanks to its free service launched last year in downtown San Francisco. Its new plan would escalate the company, once known for its search engine, as a communication ecosystem purveyor. Of course, such expansion could raise predictable antitrust complaints, although Google's wireless/wired combination can be seen as a competitive offering.And that brings us back to the cable question: How quickly can cable's wireless initiatives match newcomer Google's integrated carriage and content agenda?

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.