Headstrong Google moves to bid in wireless auction

google-wireless.jpgGoogle has just announced it will apply to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming auction of wireless spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band, a bid that, if successful, will force more competition and openness in the long-closed wireless industry.

Google had previously earmarked $4.6 billion for the bid, and so it was expected, though some people wondered whether Google was merely posturing. This announcement comes just four days after Verizon — one of major carriers that Google is challenging with this bid — announced it is opening up its network for use by other networks and applications. If Verizon’s move was meant to placate Google and dissuade Google from making the bid, it apparently wasn’t enough. Indeed, Verizon’s announcement failed to provide significant details about just how open its network will be.

Google wants to own spectrum so that it can compete with Verizon and the other major carriers, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, which so far have controlled what applications and devices can access their networks. Those carriers make it difficult for users to access Google’s increasing portfolio of services, from search to online applications. If Google controls phones on its network (see our coverage of its Android initiative), it can upload its content directly on to those phones.

From Google’s statement today:

As part of the nationally mandated transition to digital television, the 700 MHz spectrum auction — which begins January 24, 2008 — will free up spectrum airwaves for more efficient wireless Internet service for consumers. Advocacy by public interest groups and Google earlier this year helped ensure that regardless of which bidders win a key portion of the spectrum up for auction (the so-called “C Block”), they will be required to allow their users to download any software application they want on their mobile device, and to use any mobile devices they would like on that wireless network. The winner must ensure these rights for consumers if the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C Block is met at auction.

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.”

Schmidt also praised the leadership of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners for adopting the new rights for consumers earlier this year.

Google’s formal application to participate in the 700 MHz auction will be filed with the FCC on Monday, December 3, 2007 — the required first step in the auction process. Google’s application does not include any partners.