Google has reportedly made a deal to offer a cellphone service that uses both the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. It would combine this with use of currently unused frequencies to offer high-speed data in cities.
A report by The Information says the project is codenamed Nova and describes a 2015 launch as likely. It would follow in the lines of Metro PCS and Virgin Mobile in leasing access to a major network and offering service as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. Under the plan, it would be able to offer wider coverage by accessing two different networks, something currently only done by a couple of relatively small operators.
One big difference is that Google plans to bid for the rights to use currently unallocated frequencies in the 3.5GHz band, which should allow it to offer high-speed data at reduced costs. The big limitation is that signals in this band travel a relatively short range, so it would be more suited to densely populated areas where it would be economical for Google to set up a large number of smaller transmitters.
Phones would have to support the use of both the major national networks and the new city data networks. Google is said to be working on revising Android to be compatible with this, while it’s also reported it may manufacture and sell its own handset to customers.
With Google not commenting publicly, it’s hard to say exactly what it hopes to achieve and how it will stand out from competitors. However, the most common speculation is that it wants to use the multiple-network set-up to have the selling point of unlimited data plans that costs below the current going rates.
As well as potentially winning customers, that may also increase the time users spend online, something that indirectly benefits many of Google’s other areas of business.