The highly anticipated wireless service from Google (News - Alert) becomes a reality today, as the Wall Street Journal has confirmed the release of what may or may not bring U.S. service providers to their knees.
Specifically it’s the manner of Google’s move into cellular territory that could have the big four—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile (News - Alert)—looking over their shoulders. Suspicion that Google’s wireless customers will only pay for data they use has been confirmed, a model that would appear to be far more cost-efficient for customers than current roll-over systems. This also prevents massive added fees that come with exceeding data limits. An additional feature that could help save customers some money is calling made available over Wi-Fi.
Nevertheless, the big four seem relatively comfortable with the news at the moment. Sprint (News - Alert) and T-Mobile are selling the Internet juggernaut access to their networks, and the Nexus 6 that will be made available to Google’s wireless customers is capable of bouncing between these networks as needed. Volume caps will prevent the service from getting too large. If Google’s wireless offer takes off, contracts will have to be renegotiated.
While some might see Sprint and T-Mobile, both lagging behind AT&T (News - Alert) and Verizon, as having made a deal with the devil, Google’s release doesn’t have all the marks of a Greek tragedy for cellular carriers—yet. As of now, the service has great potential to offer more affordable prices, the key word here being “potential,” but is that enough? The Nexus 6 is a cool device, but customers who love their Androids and iPhones won’t jump ship unless it will save them a lot of golden doubloons.
But say Google’s prices, which have yet to be unveiled, are significantly cheaper than current offerings. The big four could come up against a big fifth. And if Google succeeds at building a loyal customer base, which would validate pumping billions of dollars into making the physical infrastructure for their own network, they would be in a frighteningly powerful position.
Google wears a lot of hats these days, and even though it never looked good in cellular, they’ve been known to pull rabbits out of more unassuming places. This slowly unfolding story is cluttered with a whole lot of huge “ifs,” and the day they become “whens,” is the day that the cellular service industry changes forever.