Google as a Carrier, Why Not?

As I read this TechCrunch post, I wondered immediately if the conclusion reached would match my own, i.e. Google should buy its way into the carrier business.

The Nexus One Was Google’s Dream. The Carriers Were Freddy Krueger

Turns out, it wasn’t, but this move makes sense. Having failed to wrest control from the carriers with the Nexus One experiment, Google can’t be ready to give up and walk away from what they know is a good plan.

From admittedly a layman’s perspective, it seems strategic for Google to buy a smaller carrier, e.g. Cricket, a subsidiary of Leap Wireless, with 4.7 million subscribers, to give it almost an end-to-end mobile business, i.e. from handset software, over the network, to the user’s ears and fingers.

This is something that would make Apple, erm green, with envy.

Cricket boasts talk and text coverage in all 50 states, but their 3G EVDO network is pretty limited, mainly to large metro areas.

This might not be a huge problem initially, as Google could wet its feet before pouring money into expansion.

You could argue that Google wouldn’t need large-scale success to shake up the carrier model sufficiently. Proof-of-concept in a large market like Chicago might be enough, but it would be better if Cricket had data in San Francisco or New York, where Google could hurt AT&T and Apple directly.

Another obvious downside is that Cricket is CDMA, whereas the N1 is GSM, but HTC, the N1 manufacturer, has CDMA capable models. I’m guessing HTC would be keen to work with Google to build a CDMA N1 and/or provide its CDMA handsets to Google.

Incidentally, Leap announced in February they were looking for a buyer.

Whether Google buys Cricket or a different carrier (ahem, Sprint), the move makes strategic sense. Sure, carrier operations aren’t in Google’s wheelhouse, but they have made strategic moves to buy up operations to benefit core business in the past, e.g. becoming an electric utility.

So, do you think a Google phone on a Google voice and data network would create positive change? Or would it represent another step toward the ultimate in Big Brother evil-doing?

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