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Google will announce its MVNO in the “coming months”: Sundar Pichai

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Google’s long rumored move to becoming a wireless carrier took one step closer to reality on Monday. At Mobile World Congress, Google’s second-in-command executive Sundar Pichai confirmed that Google is working on a becoming a mobile virtual network operator, and revealed that the Google will announce its MVNO in the coming months.

Although Pichai’s remarks on the subject were brief, he laid out Google’s aims and set expectations for the service. It’s not going to be taking on AT&T or Verizon head-on. Instead, it’s a “small scale” experiment of sorts, meant to push carriers to implement new Android features that Google’s been working on. One example Pichai provided is that when a call drops on one end, the Google MVNO will be able to automatically bring the call back.

In that way, Google’s MVNO seems like a sibling to its line of Nexus phones: It’s not meant to be a commercial force revenue- and sales-wise, but it’s intended to show Google’s long roster of partners what’s possible when they trust Google’s technology and leadership.

“It’s a very small-scale compared to the rest of the OEM industry, but it pushes the needle. I think we’re at the state where we need to think of hardware, software, and connectivity together,” Pichar said, according to the Verge. “We don’t intend to be a carrier at scale, and we’re working with existing partners.”

The fact that Google’s MVNO isn’t commercially-focused shouldn’t be a surprise. When the recent rumors of Google’s carrier ambitions started flying last month, my colleague Kevin Fitchard wrote that Google has no intention to get into the low margin business of selling minutes and data:

I could definitely see Google trying to temporarily shake things up in the industry, as the Information suggests, with a new approach to the technology and business model of wireless (it’s doing much the same thing with Google Fiber). But in the long-term, selling minutes and gigabytes, climbing towers and fielding phone calls from irate customers is not the kind of utility business Google wants to be in.

Now that it’s been confirmed that Google is becoming a wireless carrier, albeit at a small scale, speculation will center on which carrier it’s buying capacity from (likely T-Mobile and Sprint), where the service will be available (California? Or areas with Google Fiber?), and whether it will work with non-Android devices.

1:00pm ET: This story has been updated to clarify Pichai’s remarks. Google will be announcing its MVNO in the coming months, not launching it, according to Google PR, which implies availability may be some way off.


2 Responses to “Google will announce its MVNO in the “coming months”: Sundar Pichai”

  1. DataXoom

    Not much new news here. Guessing that certain wireless carriers are breathing a bit easier tonight, due to the seemingly small ambitions that Google has for its MVNO business.

  2. They would be better off if they would offer an IoT data package that covers an unlimited number of devices.
    With carriers each device that uses just tiny amounts of data costs an obscene 5-10$ per month and really cripples adoption of devices that otherwise would sell hundreds of times better . Trackers for example, for kids, pets, luggage, bikes could be selling a hell a lot better if there was virtually no extra cost after buying the hardware.. Home security could also benefit if it could use LTE as a backup to wired without the extra costs carriers are trying to impose.
    Google could help kickstart IoT around Android and actually make a buck if they could feed all those devices at prices that are 100 times better than what carriers offer now.
    Not that Google deserves any help anymore, when (sadly) pretty much all they do is negative and against the interests of it’s users..
    On a related note , pretty sure Xiaomi has a MVNO license in China ,they could use it for IoT too. For now i think the rumors were about a wifi calling app.