The Wall Street Journal details a lot of the "strong signals" Google's going to bid in the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction in order to launch a wireless network of its own. Aside from openly declaring "we are making all the necessary preparations to become an applicant to bid," what's really compelling is that
back at its headquarters, Google is already operating an advanced high-speed wireless network under a test licence from the FCC, according to people familiar with the matter. The company has erected transmission towers on its campus for the network. Prototype mobile handsets powered by the Android software are currently running on it.
More over, according to the usual "people familiar with the matter," they're grinding out a plan to toss in all $4.6 billion or more all on their own because going in with partners promises complications in bidding setup and outcomes, as well as pissing off company A by going in with company B.
Why even jump into the messy, messy world of network operation when they've already got a hand in the jar with Android? The feel-good reason is that Google wants networks to be more open and competitive to drive more innovation and better, unrestricted services without artificial carrier walls and lockdowns.
The selfish side is that open networks mean carriers can't make it hard to use Google's wares or make Google pay carriers to get at customers. There's also the potential revenue of subscriber fees—hey, open doesn't mean free—and ads across the network, according to at least one analyst group.
Whatever Google decides, we'll know by Dec. 3, the deadline for declaring an intent to bid. And should they win, don't cream your jeans about the wild, woolly West of an open wireless network just yet, since Google—and any other winners—won't get their hands on the network until 2009, when analogue broadcasts go dark. [WSJ]