Google will launch a US wireless network within the next few months. Rumors of a Google network have been making the rounds for a while, and Google’s Sundar Pichai confirmed (some of) those reports in remarks made following his keynote speech at Mobile World Congress.
Does this mean we should expect Google to offer super-fast or super-cheap service? Not necessarily. Pichai says the goal of its service is to explore ways to make WiFi and cellular networks work together seamlessly. It’s not clear that Google will open up its network to large numbers of users or commit to running the network for an extended period of time.
Google would be a virtual mobile network operator, much like Boost Mobile or Straight Talk. That means the company would use wireless spectrum from a major cellular provider such as Verizon or AT&T. Pichai also says it’s network will be a “small scale” experiment, which means the service will likely only be available in limited areas and possibly only to a limited set of users.
But a better comparison would probably be Republic Wireless: that’s a low-cost wireless carrier that offers phones which can make calls over WiFi and which only use mobile wireless connections when WiFi is not available.
Pichai says Google wants to figure out how to allow devices to seamlessly transition from Fiber-speed WiFi networks to LTE so that you could continue watching a video, talking in a phone call, or doing other things when switching between networks.
Running its own network would give Google the tools to work on the technology, but ultimately Pichai says he hopes major wireless carriers would adopt the technology.
Some carriers already offer WiFi calling. In fact, T-Mobile provides customers with a free WiFi router to support the feature. But we’re still in the early days of mixed WiFi/cellular networks, so it makes sense that Google (a company that seems to be obsessed with making it easier for people to get online — and use its services) would be looking for ways to improve the experience.
What remains to be seen is whether this means you’ll be able to sign up for a Google wireless plan anytime soon or if it just means that Google is hoping to change the way phones connect to the internet when you use them with other wireless carriers in the future.