If you thought Google Fiber sounded like a game changer, you may want to keep an eye on this story. According to the Wall Street Journal, which has a history of having well-placed sources, Google has held talks with Dish Network discussing the possibility of partnering on a wireless carrier to compete with AT&T, Verizon, and all the rest. At first, it sounds like a pipe dream. The kind we've been hoping for since the G1. Thing is, this time, it has a shot of not being complete bupkis.

Before we get into why this might be true, though, let's take a look at why it might be false: for starters, according to WSJ's own sources, the talks are not very advanced and "could amount to nothing." Keep in mind companies talk to each other all the time without releasing products. And, even if they do, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be good. Remember the last time that Google and Dish, a long with a host of their buddies, got on stage to announce a revolutionary new product? Yeah, so far it hasn't gone so well. Also, Google isn't the only company Dish is talking to, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Update: According to 9to5Google, talks are a little more advanced than the WSJ's source made it sound. According to the site, here's how it might look:

Google plans to make the service data-only with voice and SMS only being used as VoIP services, likely with Google Voice.

It's also said that the service will rollout mid-late 2013. This is all unconfirmed as of yet, but if the source is reliable, then it might be a bit more likely that it will happen than we initially thought. Still, grain of salt and all that. We now return you to your regularly scheduled analysis/speculation.

Well, Let's Get Ahead Of Ourselves A Bit

For starters, whether it's with Google or not, Dish getting involved in the wireless game in some way or another is something that needs to happen. It's going to happen. Why? Because it owns a decent amount of spectrum that is going completely unused. You know how the big carriers talk about a spectrum shortage? Well, as it turns out, there is about 538MHz worth of wireless spectrum that is currently licensed out to U.S. operators. Of that amount, only about 192MHz is actually being used, and of that amount, about 90% is allocated to existing 2G, 3G, or 3.5G networks on the major wireless carriers. (These numbers circa a late 2011 report by Citigroup. They may have changed a bit since then, but the principle stands.)

There is still a huge amount of spectrum that is currently unused, either because companies that own the licenses haven't made plans to rollout networks (as is the case for Dish), or are underfunded like Clearwire (well, prior to the Sprint acquisition which still needs to be finalized) and LightSquared. It's imperative that these companies either build out networks or sell off their holdings. Preferably the former, since none of us are too keen on giving too much wireless power to a single, or even small group of companies.

So, What About Google?


Does it make sense for Dish to partner with the Mountain View company, though? Well, that's where things get a bit more iffy. Google definitely has reason to want to be in the ISP business. In fact, it already is. If you live in Kansas or Missouri, you can already see the benefits of this type of business venture. Also, it's no secret that Google isn't exactly pleased with the model for selling smartphones to consumers these days and knows it can be better. That's half the point of the Nexus program.

Trouble is, as much as Google would like to, it really doesn't have much experience or assets in the wireless ISP business. The company certainly has the engineering brainpower and capital to be a very attractive partner, but if Dish and Google team up, then a substantial network of towers needs to be built from the ground up. That's a long, arduous road in a race that both companies are already severely behind in.

According to Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, while he's in talks with companies "who would like to be in the industry" but aren't already, it would be easier to partner with a company that already has wireless infrastructure to build off of.

That's all without getting into how this might affect Google's position in the Android world. Carriers are already a very sore spot for the platform. They delay updates, they block certain services, and they ruin brand names. They're also entirely necessary. While the Nexus 4 may be sold out right now, the unlocked Nexus phone line is, historically, not a huge seller. Google may simply not have the market force to start competing with its partners without alienating them at the same time. Granted, this would only affect the U.S., and Android operates in tons of countries worldwide, but it's also Mountain View's home turf.

In short, could it happen? Maybe! Does Google want it to happen? Absolutely. Will it happen? That is not nearly so certain. There is a lot going against this.

On A Scale Of 1-10, How Excited Should I Be?

I'd say a solid 4. Google is the kind of company to shoot for overly ambitious projects, and ever since Larry Page returned to the helm, there's been a solid "Screw it, let's do it ourselves. It will be awesome" mentality. Then again, ambition was never Google's problem. It's feasibility. The company needs to prove it can enter a very capital-intensive field with the gusto to get things done fast, in a competitive way, and without pissing off everyone in the process.

However, regardless of what happens with Google, you should still be a little excited. Dish has plenty of spectrum that simply has to be used, one way or another. Back in May, T-Mobile and MetroPCS separately filed petitions to the FCC, requesting that Dish be forced to give up some of its holdings. Now it's looking more and more like the latter two companies will be one and the same a year from now. Maybe the new mega-T-Mobile would make a good partner for an LTE network?

Either way, the wireless landscape is being shaken up quite a bit. For the last few years, it's been AT&T, Verizon, then everyone else. We would, of course, love to see a Google-branded carrier show up on U.S. soil, but even if we don't, Sprint is being acquired by a Japanese company and hopefully alleviating some of its financial woes, T-Mobile and MetroPCS are joining forces to compete with the larger carriers, and Dish has spectrum to throw at the most eligible suitor in town. Things are going to get interesting over the next few years no matter what happens.

Source: WSJ

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • McLean Riley

    If Google rolls out fiber to me and becomes a Wireless option I don't know how to explain the speed at which they would get my money. If it is a satellite company maybe we could see a more functional satellite phone (I know that is not what they are talking about, would just be awesome).

    • Ian Santopietro

      They'd have my money faster than Google Fiber!

  • CJ Walker

    I would jump ship to a Google Now network in a heartbeat.

    • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

      Then Google really would be the Now Network ;)

      • Freak4Dell

        But Sprint is the N...

        (Please wait while this user attempts to connect 17 times in a row.)

        ow Network.

  • Andrew Denniston

    Google and Dish Network go into together to buy T-Mobile and Metro PCS.

    Google Mobile Network (GMN) or Google Wireless Network (GWN)

    • http://twitter.com/PackFanJason Jason

      This is what I'm screaming. If Google and Dish did that I'd be the first in line saying "Shut up and take my money!"

      • Ian Santopietro

        ::snipes Andrew::

        Boom. Headshot.

        Now I'm the first in line!

    • Andrew Wickham

      It'd be more like Partnered Wireless Network (PWN)!

      • ddpacino

        THIS. middle fanga to the carriers, yall just got pwned!

    • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

      I think "G-Mobile" has a nice ring to it. (Credit to BetterWithRoot: http://androidandme.com/?p=63357/#comment-418681)

  • bluevoodo

    it will be as successful as their Nexus launch.

  • JordanMcRae

    Google has been hoarding cash for quite some time. And they have a tonnnn of cash. They are ready for a huge investment.

    • JordanMcRae

      They have some $45B on hand and by comparison their largest acquisition ever of Motorola Mobility was $12.5B

  • Scott Breitbach

    9to5google.com says this is happening, it's in the works, and is set to roll out mid-late 2013. Thoughts?

    • http://halljake.com Jake Hall

      That seems completely unbelievable. Even if they started construction today, I'd doubt their ability to have a (usable) network built out by any time in 2013.

      edit: unless they're planning something very small and local.

  • http://twitter.com/sam1am John Samuel αΩ

    Google needs to acquire T-Mobile as well as Dish. That way they get a starter network and all the spectrum they need to revolutionize the wireless industry. If Google runs wireless it will be awesome.

    • Freak4Dell

      Definitely. I want to say that I remember Dish's spectrum holdings being of the same type as T-Mobile's, and if so, it would make perfect sense. It would be pretty crazy of the two to try and start their own network from scratch, but buying a carrier that already has an established network, and whose owners are interested in selling anyway would be the best way to do this. I don't know that Google needs to buy Dish, but they should definitely go after some sort of partnership, maybe with split ownership of T-Mobile or something. Although, buying Dish may help streamline some of their contracts with the TV studios, too.

      I've also heard that Dish talked to AT&T, too, but I really hope this doesn't end up as some deal with AT&T. If Google is interested in doing this, they need to do it right, and in order to do it right, they need control. AT&T wouldn't be willing to give them enough control.

  • JensAstrup

    Where's the link to sign up?

  • Paul_Werner

    OK I don't know about the rest of you but I didn't get excited about this until there was an AndroidPolice article about it

  • Asphyx

    I have been sayong for a year now that Google should buy up carriers like T-Mobile, Sprint and others, get all that tower space, convert all to a single Full Standard LTE system and then look to invest in expanding the coverage wherever those carriers currently are weak.
    They would gain a ton of leverage on VZW and AT&T, Knock Apple on thier heels and really revolutionizethe Wireless industry because now they would be able to innovate without the resistance and requiring support of the Carriers to introduce new technology and innovations.
    FTC may not like it much but it would actually be in the best interests of consumers as the carriers would lose a lot of leverage they currently have.

  • Bariman43

    Where was this when I went and sold my soul to Verizon? Also, alliteration.

  • http://Twitter.com/eggoespada Eric Gonzalez

    Main reason I'd be excited about this is hopes of cheap prices with bringing any phone to your network and being" free" with no contract or restrictions of any sort.

  • ekh

    I hope they have pre-orders.

  • http://about.me/ryanmmoore ryanmmoore

    But it'll never come to canada unfortunately...

  • http://rawdesigns.net/ Rob Abby

    Considering I just upgraded my Sprint device to a Galaxy Note II, they have 2 years to get this ship sailing for me to drop Sprint and hop on this bandwagon.

    Maybe by then Google Fiber will have crawled all the way to Chicago as well.

  • Freak4Dell

    I don't know if I believe the update. We still don't have a network that's good enough to rely 100% on data for voice. Verizon will likely be the first to get their entire network covered in LTE, but even with them, it will be 2014 before it's done. I can believe the part about Google wanting an all-data network. I just don't believe the part about a mid-2013 launch. There's no way they can build a complete network from scratch in that time, there's no way they'll take over Verizon, and there's no way a smaller carrier like T-Mobile will have enough coverage by that time to make this feasible. Unless they're planning to do just a tiny city somewhere, I don't see how this will work in that time frame at all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Quallsie.001 Jordan Qualls

      Well, here's my thoughts, if a little outlandish. They'll roll it out slowly right beside G-fiber. That way they'll have a hardwired back bone AND if they become ubiquitous with fiber, they might try to use wifi points in a city to alleviate some of the overhead on the cell towers by channeling the service trough them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobbyd27 Bob Decker

    No caps, no tiers, and no LT Yar!

    Sorry couldn't help it. It would be awesome.

  • Robert Mahon

    "Trouble is, as much as Google would like to, it really doesn't have much experience or assets in the wireless ISP business."
    Apart from buying Motorola MOBILITY for $12.5 billion. That create/own the patents not just on the phones, but the backend hardware too.

    Random musings/drawing the dots;
    Google's created mini-servers to go that can be deployed anywhere you can fit a shipping container.
    Google insisted that when the spectrum bidding was going on, the 700Mhz band was to remain shared to all.
    Google's implementing fiber to an area, and providing the hardware that consumers plug into their homes. A wireless router as well as wired connections, that floods a neighbourhood with signals for phones.
    As above, Motorola Mobility buyout, did they really pick Moto JUST for their phones? if so, they spent too much, but for everything needed to create a new ISP/Carrier?

    AT&T making a play to own TMobile, the most obvious carrier for Google to buy, strangely it's THAT moment that Google starts the process to buy Moto.

    Google's tired of waiting for the next generation of networks to be created and is leapfrogging all the incumbents. Providing all the music in the world now (just finished the TimeWarner deal to get the last one), snapping up film rights for Google Play, providing hardware (phones/tablets/netbooks), network access (google fiber, dish/whoever), what you do on the net (Google Docs/Gmail/Games in ChromeStore/Play), with the browser (chrome!), watching what's going on (Google DNS).

    Remember all that talk about 'dark fiber' years ago that everyone laid but isn't using? There's an enormous amount of bandwidth to connect the US, that... Yup, you guessed it;

    They obviously not only want to provide the local areas with uber fast networks, but link all those areas together too. And once everyone has these uber fast connections, what else are they going to do apart from play music, watch tv/films/gaming? Other apps, and who can provide scary fast cloud servers on high speed connections? So Google will be selling to customers directly, selling services to other businesses, making money on every single bit that travels the networks.

    It's staggering in their reach here, to the level Bill Gates must be sitting in his pool of money laughing at it all saying 'and people were worried about ME!?!?'

    And I'll be first in line to sign up for anything/everything they do pretty much, it's fast, cheap, works. They truly get it.

    • Robert Mahon

      Google will be the internet.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

      It'd be interesting how they could use the fiber network for mobile. I'm intrigued.

  • bedwa

    I may be a former AT&T employee with a discount, but I would be there in a heartbeat. I use my phone all the time, use data heavily and had to resort to unbranded devices to get unlimited and unthrottled data. Its rediculous.

  • Charles Taylor

    I'm no expert but couldn't Google be considered a monopoly if they launched a network? They manufacture phones through its acquisition of Motorola, they provide the software the phones run on, and the service for those devices to operate.

    • Teddy Reardon

      Can't you get Samsung phones? LG? Htc? Can't you choose Verizon, at&t, tmobile or sprint? You could even use I phone, or wp8... No monopoly here