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Google May Launch Sprint and T-Mobile MVNOs

By now you've probably seen reports that Google will launch its own branded mobile service this year. Google is said to be negotiating with Sprint and T-Mobile to act as an MVNO reselling mobile data and voice service to consumers

The story first surfaced on The Information, a two year old paid subscription technology news site founded by ex-Wall Street Journal writer Jessica Lessin.  It cites three un-named sources as saying the project, code named "Nova", is headed up by Google VP Nick Fox who has served as a Product Manager for both Android and Google Adwords.

The story has since been picked up by the Wall Street Journal, Time and dozens of tech news sites. So far Google, Sprint and T-Mobile have said nothing about the project so everything that has been written about it is speculation.

My take is that wireless from Google will likely be a low cost no-contract service that emphasizes data rather than voice. Google has experience delivering high speed public WiFi so I wouldn't be surprised if Google Wireless was a Wi-Fi first service like Republic Wireless that uses Wi-Fi for calls, messaging and data whenever possible with the cellular network as a  backup when there's no Wi-Fi.

Many of Google's new products including Gmail, Play Music and Chrome OS, have launched as small scale beta tests that were expanded to general availability over several months or even years in the case of Gmail. It would make sense for Google to launch its wireless service first in its Google Fiber markets where it has a high speed network in place to serve the tens of thousands of WiFi access points needed for a robust Wi-Fi first network.

It's also possible that Google Wireless will not happen. There have been countless rumors of Google becoming a mobile operator of MVNO over the years starting even before Android launched. None of those rumors proved true and this one might not either.  I hope it is true as I believe Google's entry has the potential give the US wireless industry a much needed shake up.



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  1. Ugh, enough of these sprint and tmobile carriers. It seems like you can't even make a call outside of a major city with those 2.

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    1. It's because they sell their services to MVNOs at more competitive rates than Verizon and AT&T. You want the coverage footprint of Verizon and AT&T, you better be prepared to pony up the higher price for it. I'm happy with T-Mobile's price (especially their $30 secret plan) in exchange for a smaller service area. The important thing is that WHERE I frequent, I get some T-Mobile coverage. That's all that matters to me.

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    2. What "secret" T-Mobile $30 plan? Is there another $30 plan besides the 5GB/100 minute plan which is in plain sight on the T-Mobile prepaid plans page?

      http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

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    3. That's the one. For some reason, Sdlock likes to call it his secret plan which seems to drive at least one anonymous commenter crazy. It's not a secret and arguing about whether it is or not seems to be a pointless waste of time for everyone involved.

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    4. SD, we get it, you love your "secret" plan, you bring it up in every post, I am 99% sure every PPPN.com knows about it.

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    5. SD, that's good for you then, but people without T-Mobile and Sprint like to hear about Verizon and At&t mvno's as well.

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    6. How about we all agree to call it an "exclusive plan", since activated sims are ineligible to switch over?

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    7. Anon from January 22, 2015 at 8:58 PM Call it the "spy plan", then it sounds cool, and you can have Legere in James Bond garb in commercials.

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    8. SDLock said: " The important thing is that WHERE I frequent, I get some T-Mobile coverage"

      Some coverage? That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement for the carrier you choose. Doesn't that mean it drops out a lot? Or does it just mean low bars, but consistently, over a wide area?

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  2. Did you see that simple mobile has doubled data on 2 plans?

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    1. Simple Mobile didn't double data on two of their plans. They only added 1GB to the $40 and $50 plans. And also added LTE to the $40 plan which before was only available on the $50 and $60 plans. Their $40 and $50 plans now match the plans from MetroPCS with 2GB or 4GB of LTE data.
      Simple Mobile plans are now
      2GB $40
      4GB $50
      10GB $60
      All with LTE access.
      I think $50 plans from Simple, MetroPCS, Cricket and others should include 5GB or 6GB of high speed data if they want to compete with Boost Mobile's new plans.

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    2. "I think $50 plans from Simple, MetroPCS, Cricket and others should include 5GB or 6GB of high speed data if they want to compete with Boost Mobile's new plans."

      The belabored "much different coverage" point is relevant here, Anonymous.

      MVNOs and similar subsidiaries from much larger networks than Boost Mobile easily compete with Boost's new plans by being on a much larger network than Boost is on. It's apples and oranges looking at such things.


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  3. Did you see the new simple mobile plan?

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  4. I can't see Google going with Tmobile because of their coverage. Don't get me wrong tmobile has some damn good plans, but in NE, NC Tmobile is all but useless here and being that Google wants to do a sort of shock and awe I don't think Tmobile would be their best bet. Sprint either. They may do AT&T but have a sort of special deal with AT&T. Even US Cellular could be a better choice as they've done a trial for a short time with True Unlimited Data. Their coverage is far more stable than Sprint and they do allow roaming to Verizon (free on prepaid) so if they don't want Verizon or AT&T that would be the one to go with. At least you'll have stronger 4G LTE.

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    1. Legacy. Customers go with T-Mobile despite the terrible coverage.... because for some customers, it makes business sense. And for those costumers, the coverage is great (or they would leave it).. It would follow that Google has done extensive evaluation on this, and it makes economic sense to go with T-Mobile, at least to them.

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    2. Yes, Legacy. There are entire states pretty much blown off by T-Mobile, and I mean in the populated east, where the other carriers cover a lot better. Not meaning places like Montana that have poor coverage for all.

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    3. There are ZERP "entire states in the populated East pretty much blown off by T-Mobile." Anybody can check the new T-Mobile coverage map they posted and see this for themselves. http://www.t-mobile.com/coverage.html You can even map a trip on this new page and see your coverage along the whole route.

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  5. Why would such a successful wealthy corporation like Google want to get into the low profit MVNO business?

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    1. Google' is first and foremost an advertising company. Cheaper, faster mobile data means more eyeballs on Google ads and more revenue for Google. MVNO revenues are not important to Google, showing more ads to more people is.

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    2. "Why would such a successful wealthy corporation like Google want to get into the low profit MVNO business?"

      - Why would Google want to get into low-profit free email business?
      - Why would Google want to get into low-profit maps?
      - Why would Google want to get into low-profit cell phone OS?

      The answer to all of these, as with its MVNO idea, is that it makes sense... and profit...for Google.

      I wonder how many of those saying that Google is making a terrible business decision have experience running such tech companies.

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  6. I think the industry is pretty shaken, retail margins are falling to wholesale rates and they've pretty much abandoned marketing and trying to figure out new ways to generate revenue with "do whatever the hell you want, unlimited umthrottled $50 plans", etc. I think a better move for Google is to buy T-Mobile USA outright and figure out a way to do " free with special offers " service like kindle hardware is subsidized.

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  7. Who knows? Maybe the initial angle on this Google MVNO story is only part of the story. What if Google is testing the waters for an eventual acquisition of T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom? If anyone has the cash for it, Google does. I also love the idea of Google and Vodafone taking over T-Mobile...

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  8. Google will never buy T-Mobile. It's not their thing. It's going to be enough of a pain for them to handle customer service for these new MVNOs - they will probably outsource it. Their execs have expressed disdain for the big 4 carriers, saying prices are too high, not enough innovation, and not enough Android software differentiation. They want to push monthly prices down and push carriers to expand networks. All so Google can pump up their ad revenue. Sprint has reportedly negotiated a "trigger" that will let them renegotiate the MVNO deal if volume goes over a certain level. They are wary of Google controlling too much traffic on the Sprint network.

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    1. "Google will never buy T-Mobile. It's not their thing...."

      Email is not their thing. Maps is not their thing. Driverless cars is not their thing. Phone OS is not their thing....

      Google is nothing but a search engine, right?

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    2. Last time I checked, Google did not spend Billions on email, maps or car software and controls. They experiment with a lot of things, and then abandon them. The idea that they would buy ONE cellular network company, putting them in competition with THREE others, is a non-starter. Especially since running a network company requires real work, and at least another $4-5B/year in network investment to stay current. It will not happen. It's not their thing.

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  9. Actually I don't know why people love the secret $30 plan. I have h2o which has an awesome coverage. I have the $30 plan BUT I usually buy it for $22 on eBay (sometimes I was able to find it at $19) which is way better than tmobile!

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    1. How do you buy refills on eBay? And is it safe?

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    2. It should be safe, unless you get those refills containing gunpowder or toxic Chinese wallpaper paste.

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  10. I've copied this from http://www.phonearena.com/news/Google-inks-deal-to-be-Sprint-MVNO_id65195

    I don't know if this makes it more official but I thought Dennis would want to know.

    Thanks for your wonderful site.

    Google inks deal to be Sprint MVNO

    Posted: 25 Jan 2015, 03:48, by Maxwell R.

    Tags: T-Mobile+ Sprint+ Wireless service+ Google+
    Google inks deal to be Sprint MVNO
    A few days ago, reports circulated that Google was in negotiations with both Sprint, and T-Mobile USA for purposes of becoming a reseller of those carriers’ networks and offering its own branded wireless service.

    However, Businessweek reported that Google has indeed already signed a reseller contract with Sprint, and that SoftBank CEO, Masayoshi Son, was a key player in making the deal happen.

    People familiar with the situation did not reveal financial terms of the agreement, but it is said the arrangement is similar to other MVNO contracts that are in place with other providers. There are other reports though that say Google is going to pay a wholesale rate of just $2 per-gigabyte of data. Sprint likely has a clause in its agreement allowing a renegotiation of the contract if Google ends up taking on a large number of subscribers should the search giant opt to try and low-ball the market with ultra-cheap price plans.

    For Google, this offers an added measure of control and continuity for the customer experience across the board. If the wholesale rates are accurate, that may position Google to further blast open the price war that T-Mobile and Sprint are having with each other, and are trying to have with AT&T and Verizon.

    As for the prospect of Google effectively competing with carriers that it has agreements with (like selling the Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet), this development will likely not alter that part of the landscape too much. Google already competes with network providers in markets for internet service (Google Fiber) and various Wi-Fi hotspots. Plus, there are substantial differences in the disposition of AT&T's and Verizon's networks and Sprint's and T-Mobile's.

    Details about Google signing on the dotted line with T-Mobile are still pending, but there may already be a contract executed there as well. There have been no official announcements about any of these deals. Google is expected to offer service sometime this year. How it will be offered, and how much it will cost are all matters of speculation right now.

    Is Google in a better position to operate a successful MVNO? It will depend on how it is marketed, and sold of course, but given the relative financial health, and breadth of services that Google provides, it can likely afford to play the long game with this plan, even forecast losses for years while the project (called Nova) gains momentum. There is also a matter of the two incompatible standards of Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s networks in both 3G, and 4G, and the fact that neither network really has an edge on the other when it comes to physical coverage.

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  11. I'm watching this because I've been with TMobile for many years and have also used their GoSmart and MetroPCS Phones/Service and have been happy with all. Maybe Tmo is not strong in some areas but where I am it's as strong as AT&T and both are just barely under Verizon so Sprint is the weak player here. Being an old retired guy if google can save me some money and I'm running the same network I am now I'd be quite happy.

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    1. You are not alone. T-Mobile just won 6 out of 8 individual categories in the latest ComputerWorld survey of wireless data customers: "Which mobile service provider gives you the most comprehensive and reliable data network coverage, the fastest upload and download speeds, and overall, the most bang for the buck."
      http://www.computerworld.com/article/2871484/which-mobile-data-provider-is-best-and-will-you-make-a-switch.html

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  12. Fierce Wireless cited a WSJ report today that says Google wants to route calls, texts and data over the strongest signal, whether Tmo or Sprint cellular, or WiFi. Device would have to detect this, and have all Tmo and Sprint bands. Interesting. Competition for service on every device they sell should help bring down the cost of service eventually.

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  13. Good article in Fierce - 5 reasons why a Google MVNO won't happen or may fail:
    http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/5-reasons-why-google-mvno-would-fail/2015-01-26

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  14. Google's Wireless service is reported that it will only support one wireless device ,the Nexus 6 made by Motorola. Also reported Nexus 5 will NOT work on the new service.

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