Why Google is in the Internet Access, Mobile, Linear Video and Voice Businesses
In addition to Google Fiber, which has Google operating as a fixed network provider of Internet access, linear video entertainment and soon, voice, Google Fi is a commercial mobile virtual network operator in the U.S. market.
But those efforts are not the only initiatives Google parent Alphabet has under way. After dabbling in municipal Wi-Fi and other Wi-Fi networks (train stations in India, for example), Alphabet also has several wireless initiatives under way.
Project Loon entails use of a balloon-based mesh network in the sky, using Long Term Evolution 4G signals to directly reach end user mobile devices. That approach necessarily entails working with mobile operators who are willing to allow Project Loon to use licensed frequencies.
At the very least, that entails Project Loon becoming a wholesale customer of one or more mobile operators in a market, and then acting as both backhaul and access network.
The precise nature of retail relationships might change over time. Initially, Project Loon might function mostly as an infrastructure partner for branded mobile operators who would have the retail relationship. But other business models are feasible, so it is just too early to say what might evolve later.
So far Project Loon has tested such services with Vodafone New Zealand, Telstra in Australia, Telefónica in Latin America, all three mobile operators in Indonesia and with Sri Lanka as well.
Since Google has asked for permission to test the concept in the United States as well, there is some speculation that Project Loon might actually operate over rural parts of the United States as well as many countries in the southern hemisphere.
Project Titan is the unit of Alphabet working on unmanned aerial vehicles, and Alphabet also is an investor in Elon Musk’s SpaceX, presumably because SpaceX plans to launch a huge fleet of low earth orbiting satellites for Internet access.
Some might be skeptical about how much success Alphabet might have in all of its various ISP and service provider roles.
But the fact remains that Alphabet is investing serious amounts of capital in a variety of programs that involve competing with cable TV, mobile, fixed network telco, satellite and ISP interests on a possibly substantial level.
Though some might question the priorities, Google cares about Internet access and app or web page loading speed for very practical reasons. Every incremental Internet user is a potential user of Alphabet and Google apps.And the faster content loads, the happier users are, while increasing ad inventory at the same time. For a company that earns the bulk of its revenue from advertising, that matters. Facebook cares about universal Internet access and access speed for the same reasons.