Google Gets in Bed With Mobile Operators Again

Mobile operators may be making some progress in their attempts to share the cost of network build-out with Internet companies. France Telecom (s FTE) said it’s in talks with Google (s GOOG) about offering segmented services for users, so those who want faster or more stable service can pay more with the two sharing the revenue. It’s part of a larger push by FT to come to some agreement with Silicon Valley companies. France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard told investors Tuesday that FT would have an announcement along those lines in the coming weeks.

A separate report in Telecompaper said Internet companies aren’t ready to invest in network capacity building but are willing to collaborate on ways to better use networks and educate customers. Richard told Telecompaper that Google was looking at including data monitoring and management tools in Android apps and has agreed to set up a joint study group with FT to examine how it can reduce the amount of data Google services consume in the future.

As we’ve reported before, operators like France Telecom, Vodafone (s VOD) and Telecom Italia (s TIT) have been pushing web giants like Google, Facebook, Yahoo (s YHOO) and Apple (s AAPL) to help pay for their share of the traffic they put on the networks. It’s an old wireline move that’s being attempted again by wireless operators. But it appears it might be working to some extent, at least in Europe.

I have my reservations about a segmented service plan for Google services that creates two tiers of service. The lower tier could become neglected by operators trying to up-sell people on higher cost service. And we’ve seen that Google is willing to partner with carriers in ways that aren’t always beneficial for consumers and developers.

But talks could be prudent if Internet companies and the carriers can hash out some creative solutions. We’ve talked about the need for congestion or dynamic pricing in which users are charged more for using the network at peak times or offered incentives to avoid use during those periods. There are other ways that carriers can work with consumers to create flexible and personalized data plans. This all speaks to the reality of wireless networks. There are limits on the amount of spectrum and bandwidth available, and with the explosion of mobile data usage, new solutions need to emerge.

I don’t think many Internet players will fork over cash to network operators for network build-outs. But if they can optimize their apps and websites for mobile use as well as educate their users about how much data they’re using, it can be a help in reducing network traffic. Platform makers like Apple and Google can also play a part in helping push for more efficient apps. Google, in particular, should be leading the charge because Android users consume the most data among smartphone owners. It might not forestall the mobile data tsunami, but it could help create a more collaborative environment where the players are working together to manage data usage rather than carriers reflexively hitting up Internet companies, developers and consumers for more cash.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user popofatticus