Multiple sources are reporting that Google is preparing to offer its own wireless service (of a sort), based on comments from Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Android, Chrome, and Apps.
VentureBeat reported from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that Pichai mentioned Google's plans to work with "carrier partners," most likely at first on the same experimental and provisional basis as Google Fiber's rollout.
The exact plans remain a mystery. Google's clearly not offering to compete head-to-head with existing wireless carriers or their services. Rather, it sounds as if the company is planning a service that augments existing wireless connectivity or perhaps uses extant wireless systems to expand its services.
Wired noted that Pinchai "hopes to provide ways for phones to more easily move between cellular networks and Wi-Fi connections, perhaps even juggling calls between the two." Existing carriers like T-Mobile already offer ways to route cellular calls over Wi-Fi, but Google's plan may expand the way that works -- and, as Wired hinted, perhaps also monetize that connectivity.
Google didn't mention how this new experiment will leverage its high-speed bandwidth projects, but some crossover seems likely. The company's fiber-to-the-curb experiment, which delivers a theoretical maximum of 1Gbps but in reality runs about 200Mbps, has expanded from its original Kansas City deployment to several other U.S. cities.
One possible point of intersection between Google Fiber and this new project is to substitute a short-range, high-speed wireless connection with fiber to the curb. In 2012 the company was allegedly in talks with Dish Network, among others, to secure millimeter-wave frequencies (as high as 81GHz to 86GHz). That technology lends itself to short-range but high-speed connections.
There has been talk of Google becoming a wireless provider off and on for years, fueled by Google showing interest in securing a piece of radio spectrum. Back in 2007, Google was one of many parties bidding on a slice of the 700MHz spectrum. More recently, Project Loon -- which provides Internet connectivity via airborne balloons -- has advanced to the point of "working toward commercial deals with several network operators around the globe," according to the Verge.
The new project stands in contrast to both of those initiatives and may serve to extend them into different realms.