Google is working on its own wireless service for phones that would piggyback on the networks of T-Mobile and Sprint, The Information reports. The Verge has been able to independently verify that the project is indeed underway. By purchasing bandwidth from two of the big four national carriers instead of building its own wireless network, Google would be launching what's known as an MVNO; other big MVNOs include Tracfone and Simple Mobile.
The company's interest in providing internet service directly to consumers has grown in recent years, both in developed markets — Google Fiber, for instance — and in rural areas through Project Loon and Google's recent investment in SpaceX. (It's no coincidence that Google outspent traditional telecom companies on lobbying efforts in Washington, DC last year — an impressive feat, considering how much money the telecoms are accustomed to spending there.)
It's not the first time a Valley player has thought about launching an MVNO
Google, Apple, and other Valley giants have been tied up in MVNO rumors for many years, dating back to the launch of the original iPhone. The appeal is simple: by controlling the network, companies can better control the experience on the devices they sell and support. And by aggregating multiple carriers — as Google's so-called Project Nova is rumored to do — the company would be able to offer a larger coverage footprint.
Not just about the user experience
For Google, though, it's about more than a better user experience. It's difficult to undercut host networks like Sprint and T-Mobile by very much — especially since they already have reputations as discount carriers — but it sounds like Google is trying: The Information's report says the company wants to get creative with plan pricing. To do that, it's experimenting with "communication apps" of some sort, though little is known about what those might be. (As a present-day example, Google Voice uses domestic bridge lines to offer cheap international calling.)
All of this might simply be a bridge to a future where Google more directly controls a ubiquitous, high-speed global internet connection, which is certainly possible between Loon, drones, and satellites. In the meantime, it could launch an MVNO in concert with its Nexus devices and other unlocked phones — and that might happen very soon: The Information says that Google executive Nick Fox, who runs Nova, originally wanted to launch it last fall.