BARCELONA, Spain — Sundar Pichai, senior VP at Google and the man who heads up Android, Chrome, and Google Apps, has confirmed the long-standing rumors that it was planning to enter the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) space in the U.S.
Taking to the stage at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Pichai discussed many facets of Google and Android, but the one stand-out revelation was that the Internet giant is working with “carrier partners” and plans to announce something later this year.
He didn’t reveal much about its plans to be a MVNO, which is when a company piggybacks off existing carriers to offer its own network service, and Pichai attempted to play things down by admitting it didn’t plan to do anything at scale. In other words, it seems like it plans to launch what will be a pilot project at first and see how things go, and it will likely involve the integration of wireless and cellular services.
Google has already been involved in a number of projects involving the “network” side that enables its various technologies and services, including Google Fiber, which is still slowly rolling out in the U.S., as well as Project Loon — its initiative aimed at bringing high-speed Internet access to remote areas of the world via hot air balloons.
Amazon too is rumored to be entering the mobile network space, as more services shift to the mobile realm, and it does make sense for the big tech titans of the world to make moves into this sphere. But the intentions aren’t to make money from being a mobile network in the same way as a traditional carrier would; it’s more about improving “uptime” and ensuring users aren’t prevented from doing what they need to do on their phones.
Rather than looking to ink a deal with a single carrier, it’s believed that plans are afoot to get multiple networks on board, thus letting Google identify the best network at any given time based on a user’s location and desired service — SMS, voice or data.
So Google likely isn’t launching an MVNO as we’ve come to understand it, and it may not even be something that you’re able to sign up to as a standalone service. Whatever its plans are, all will be revealed “in the coming months,” according to Pichai. Google I/O at the end of May would be as good a time as any for the big reveal, though that is purely guesswork.