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July 31, 2007 at 10:02 AM

Google’s role in telecom

An obvious question to ask recently is whether Google is a friend or foe of the telecom industry.

On one hand, Google is very interested in building and developing applications for the wireless industry. Last week it signed a partnership with Sprint Nextel to build a portal for its emerging high-speed wireless WiMax network.

On the other hand, it has rocked the industry by proposing to the FCC that the winning bidder in the next auction for wireless broadband airwaves be required to provide an open network allowing any application or handset to run on it — a far cry from the closed wireless networks available in the U.S. today.

CNET speculated in an article today what all this means for the telecom industry.

The story asks: “Will it build its own wireless network using spectrum from the upcoming auction? Or will it strike more deals like the one it signed with Sprint Nextel? Will it come out with its own Google phone that will take on the likes of the Apple iPhone and other manufacturers like Motorola and Nokia?”

The answer for now, CNET reported, is Google’s intentions are all about providing Internet access, whether it’s in competition or in partnership with telecom operators.

“Mobile is the fastest and cheapest way to reach the largest number of people,” said Chris Sacca, head of special initiatives at Google. “There are billions of people on this planet who still don’t have access to the Internet. And we think mobile presents the biggest opportunity to get them on the Internet.”

The story didn’t get much more information out of the tight-lipped Google.

To be sure, wireless operators have been wary of the Internet giant. Google packs such a strong brand and typically the carrier wants its name to be the stand out. That attitude has led companies such as Bellevue-based InfoSpace and Seattle-based Medio Systems to create white-label, or non-branded, search applications for the phone.

But now that Sprint Nextel has choosen Google as a partner, perhaps more will follow?

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