Google has already entered the Internet service provider (ISP) industry with Google Fiber, and a new report suggests the company is considering an expansion into mobile phone service as well. According to a report published in The Information, Google would become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), meaning that instead of competing against the major carriers, it would buy service from them and then sell it back to its own customers.
There are already dozens of MVNOs in the United States and unlike Google Fiber, a mobile phone service would not be very interesting. Fiber has allowed Google to control both speed and price since it has laid down fiber connections to every customer location, but the only thing Google would be able to control as an MVNO would be price (and even that control is limited.)
In the Footsteps of Fiber
Details regarding Google's plans are still limited, but sources close to the company have revealed to The Information that the company would look to offer its phone service in the same locations as Google Fiber. Over the past few years, Fiber has expanded to three locations and is working with city governments to expand to at least nine other metro areas.
Fiber has already been a success in Kansas City, and since that initial experiment it has moved into Provo, Utah, and Austin. The Information reports that two sources close to Google have said executives within the company met with Sprint and then Verizon regarding the creation of a new MVNO in markets where the company is offering Google Fiber Internet and TV.
Less Control, More Competitors
Google Fiber has been a success and a true competitor to other ISPs not only because it is significantly faster but because the service is reliable and relatively cheap. All aspects of the Fiber experience are under Google's control, but the same would not be true for its mobile phone service.
There is a long list of MVNOs in the U.S., with big names like MetroPCS, Net10, and Straight Talk included. This means that if Google were to unveil a new MVNO service, it is hard to tell if people would switch from their current service providers.
We asked Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, for his opinion on the report. He told us that Google could very well be entering the mobile business but that there is no guarantee of success.
"Google was never in the service provider business. But then they got into the high-speed Internet business in the last couple of years." Kagan said. "Could wireless [be] next? Sure it could. But there are no guarantees. Several large companies have try to enter the wireless space unsuccessfully like Comcast, Time Warner, [and] Cox."