Google Inks Deal With Sprint, T-Mobile to Become Wireless Carrier
Google has signed deals with Sprint and T-Mobile that will allow it to sell wireless service directly to consumers, reports The Wall Street Journal, adding to a report released by The Information earlier today. The publication's sources suggest that Google's entry into the wireless service industry may be part of an effort to persuade carriers to bolster speeds and cut down on pricing. Positioning itself as a wireless carrier is also part of Google's larger effort to provide better Internet coverage across the United States.
Currently, there are four major carriers in the United States: T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon, and while T-Mobile has made efforts to shake up the wireless industry with its Un-Carrier initiatives, wireless service in the United States remains much pricier than in other countries, with subscribers getting less data for more money.
Details on how Google will offer wireless service, its cost, or when it will launch are not known, but like the rollout of its Google Fiber broadband internet service, Google-branded wireless service could launch in a limited number of cities to begin with.
Sprint, of Overland Park, Kan., is the third-largest wireless carrier, while T-Mobile, of Bellevue, Wash., ranks fourth. Under separate agreements with each carrier, Google will resell service on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks, according to people familiar with the plans. Such wholesale agreements are common, essentially allowing sellers such as Google to pitch wireless service under their own brand names.
As it will operate as an MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, Google will not need to build out the infrastructure for its own wireless network, instead providing T-Mobile or Sprint service that's controlled by and sold through Google. Other well-known MVNO's include Boost Mobile, FreedomPop, and Straight Talk.
In the past, there have been rumors and speculation suggesting that Apple too would take on the role of a mobile carrier, selling service directly to consumers, but Apple has not made any moves in that direction. In fact, in 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple did not need to own a carrier or provide its own wireless service, stating that the company would be better off focusing its efforts on making great devices than attempting to get into a market out of its area of expertise.