Rumor: Google to launch MVNO in Spain?
Leaked reports show own-branded SIM cards, could be part of broader bid to increase the search giant's control of the mobile experience
Published: 23 September, 2011
Google has been causing concern among carriers and device partners with some of its mobile activities. There was the own-branded Nexus handset family, which tried (and failed) to usher in a new distribution model with a reduced role for operators. Then there's the purchase of Motorola Mobility, which could cause divisions in the handset base. And now Google is reported to be planning its own MVNO, taking its powerful brand up against the established cellcos in Spain.
The concrete evidence is slight so far, but insiders within Google have talked for several years about the possibility of becoming a virtual operator - a move that many have also speculated for Apple. Both firms are keen to make their brands the dominant ones in the mobile web, and to put themselves at the heart of the customer relationship. And both have been experimenting with SIM cards which are under their control rather than that of the operator - though Apple's plan for a remotely activated SIM was withdrawn under fire from European cellcos, which threatened to reduce backing for the iPhone.
That incident was a salutary reminder to the web majors that the carriers remain the primary route to market for mobile devices and services, but that fact could encourage Google to establish its own, and take the gamble that more conventional cellcos will not be able to retaliate effectively against the powerful Android.
In Spain, photos and documents leaked by an employee indicate that Google staff have been issued with Google-branded SIM cards which are running on an as-yet uncommercialized MVNO network. Tying the handset and network service together under a single brand would be a disruptive move, especially with the rising number of customers who are attracted to a non-carrier brand for their mobile activities (Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile and so on). However, Google may also have its eye on non-handset devices such as tablets and cloudbooks, where the wireless connectivity is likely to be embedded and transparent to the user in future, rather than associated with a carrier contract.