The Wall Street Journal is quoting “people familiar with the matter” saying that Google will announce a bid for the 700 MHz wireless spectrum Friday.
Google first expressed interesting in bidding in July, when it sent a letter to the FCC demanding that the new bandwidth have four requirements: open applications, open devices, open services and open networks. The FCC only adopted two of Google’s recommendations when it released the terms for the auction July 31, with support for open applications and open devices, but with no requirement for open services or open networks.
With the auction due in January and bidders having to declare their intentions to bid by December 3, there has been no shortage of speculation as to whether Google would or wouldn’t participate.
The ongoing mystery is exactly what Google plans to do with the spectrum. Since we last wrote about the auction Google has announced the Open Handset Alliance (Android) which includes T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel; in effect Google has an existing partnership with two of the four major existing mobile players in the United States. If Google is seeking to become a cellphone operator in its own right, this wouldn’t be well received by T-Mobile or Sprint Nextel; unless of course Google is already talking about partnerships where by one (or both) of their partners provides the towers and service provision whilst Google maintains spectrum ownership, whilst presumably dictating access terms that would favor open access and/ or Android itself.
From a consumer viewpoint Google entering the auction process is a positive step forward, even if we don’t know Google’s intentions yet. Competition is always good, and Google owned spectrum would provide downward pressure on cell phone rates that will benefit users on all networks, not just those using a Google owned service.