Slowly, Google is Becoming a Major ISP

Up to this point, Google has been a direct retail Internet service provider only in the U.S. market, though there have been rumors Google is thinking about doing something similar in Europe.

Google now has announced it is launching a new mobile virtual network operator service in the United States, and most observers expect the intent is to test better ways of integrating Wi-Fi and mobile access. To the extent those efforts center on Long Term Evolution and Wi-Fi, the implications are global.

Years ago, Google began to build its own internal global undersea network. Opinions varied about whether there were wider implications. As it turns out, Google has indeed become a commercial ISP in the United States. Whether it will do so elsewhere is the new issue.

And though Google Fiber is a fixed network business, Google now is experimenting in mobile as well.

And it is certain Google will deepen its role in the Internet access business globally. Google recently made a $1 billion investment in a commercial satellite Internet access venture. And that is not all.  

Google’s fully-owned drone manufacturer--Titan Aerospace--has gotten two test licenses from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, allowing Titan to test “Internet by drone” services for five months.

The tests will happen inside a 520 square mile area to the east of Albuquerque, from March 2015 to September 2015. The testing area would include Moriarty, where Titan Aerospace is based.

Nobody outside Google knows precisely what Google might ultimately do, and where, with a range of wireless and mobile Internet access platforms.

Google recently made a $1 billion investment in a venture to deliver satellite Internet access services.

In addition to ownership of Titan Aerospace, Google is testing the use of unmanned balloons to deliver Internet access.

At least three mobile service providers are testing the platform, which interworks with a Long Term Evolution mobile network. Were those efforts to become commercial operations, Google would operate as a backhaul provider for mobile service providers, as well as a retail service network.
Google also owns Skybox Imaging, a manufacturer of satellites.

Then there is the mobile virtual network operator business Google is launching in the United States, plus Google Fiber, the gigabit fixed network Internet access business, plus Google’s operation of Wi-Fi networks for U.S. Starbucks locations, and its investment in mobile apps of many types.

In the past, Google has made investments in Clearwire, the former U.S. mobile services company, municipal broadband, Android operating system and Nexus phones and tablets.

Nobody knows which of these efforts will emerge as significant commercial operations and which are intended primarily to influence wider market adoption of practices Google considers helpful to its own business.

Should Google commercialize even a few of the new initiatives, it would emerge in a variety of potential roles, including backhaul provider, retail Internet supplier, or both. In such cases, Google might be a partner for some ISPs, a competitor for backhaul suppliers or a competitor to retail ISPs.  

And, it goes without saying, Google is both emerging as a potential new competitor to other access providers, a partner and supplier. In all cases, though, Google's business objective is to reduce barriers to the use of the Internet and the cost of Internet access. 

That means, among other things, that Google has a vested interest in lower cost smartphones, computers and tablets, as well as lower cost Internet access, both mobile and fixed. Always.
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