Rumour: Google to take on AT&T, Verizon for cellular service

Michelle Clancy | 18-11-2012

Google is considering a spectrum deal with satellite-TV provider DISH Network that would allow it to roll out a nationwide mobile phone service, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Citing "people familiar with the discussions," the WSJ said that the talks are simply in the exploratory stage.

DISH has a big chunk of wireless spectrum at its disposal that it purchased at auction in 2008. The company has been accused of Spectrum-hoarding by the National Association of Broadcasters, but the reality is that the satco has been casting around for a partner to leverage the spectrum for mobile voice and data. DISH chairman Charlie Ergen told the WSJ that he's interested in promoting competition by partnering with a company not currently offering wireless service, who may be looking for a national footprint to get into the business and take on AT&T-Verizon hegemony. That said, assets like towers and mobile expertise would be a plus for any partner, he said.

The move would dovetail nicely with Google's existing plans: it, of course, owns the Android mobile operating system, and has toyed with creating its own devices. On the TV side, it's rolling out IPTV service in Kansas City and is working with consumer electronics giants like LG and Samsung to embed Google TV into connected television. A wireless broadband overlay network would supercharge its ubiquitous broadband and open-access mandates.

All of that said, DISH will be unlikely to roll out wireless service until at least 2016 it is waiting for regulatory approval to use its terrestrial spectrum to launch an LTE network. The FCC is considering rules governing the airwaves given the satcaster's television spectrum position and the interplay between the two.