Note: My vote is do it. The more Google build's independent access to the people who keep the lights on "search users" the better position they will be in for the future where we will have more players competing for the same pie.
It could cost as much as $12 billion and take as long as three years to build a national wireless network from scratch, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel said Sept. 25. That would be on top of a minimum of $4.6 billion to buy the spectrum.
Whether the Mountain View, Calif., search and advertising giant wants to spend that much to become a wireless broadband provider is still an open question, Rick Whitt told students at George Washington University's Institute for Politics and the Internet.
"It would cost more money than people think," Whitt said. "Do we really want to take that leap?" Google's interest in obtaining spectrum to challenge traditional wireless providers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless has sparked intense speculation since the Federal Communications Commission set the conditions for January's 700 MHz auction, largely following the suggestions of Google, other technology companies and public advocacy groups.
The FCC dedicated almost a third of the spectrum available – enough to build a national network – to open access, requiring the winning bidder to allow customers to use the phone or device and applications of their choice on the network. The decision, which is already being challenged in court by Verizon, is expected to reduce or eliminate interest in the spectrum from traditional carriers who close their networks to selected devices and services.
Like Google, AT&T, Verizon and other carriers have not formally announced their auction strategy. "We may line up some other high-tech companies or smaller telecoms. Some of the second- and third-tier companies may be willing to work with us," Whitt said, adding that Google is willing to talk with "anybody who thinks it makes sense to join us on this."
Whitt also said it might make more sense for Google to make another play for a smaller slice of spectrum in the auction or to focus on emerging technologies such as the use of unlicensed spectrum in the interference buffer zones between broadcast channels or, possibly, mesh networks.