Clearwire an Option for Google in Wireless Quest

Partnering with Clearwire could give Google the open network to go along with its Android platform, analysts say.

A Google investment in Clearwire could fortify the search companys quest to reach more users through their mobile devices.

If Google can help Clearwire build out its wireless network, Google could sell consumers mobile applications and services rich with targeted, contextual and localized ads, analysts agreed.

Since announcing its Android mobile software stack Nov. 5, Google has weathered a steady stream of speculation about what it will do next in the wireless arena. That speculation deepened after Sprint and Clearwire nixed their WiMax agreement, prompting industry watchers to predict Google might target either of the two wireless carriers for some sort of deal.

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said a Google investment in Clearwire would also likely make Clearwire guarantee the openness that Google has argued for in the Federal Communications Commission auctions and promoted in Android. Google could then promote a model in which consumers use Googles applications and services irrespective of what networks they are on or what mobile devices they are using.

"That would be the pound of flesh Google would extract from a deal with Clearwire," Golvin told eWEEK Nov. 14.

Google and Sprint have public ties, with the two working together on WiMax and Sprint joining the OHA (Open Handset Alliance) Google created to support Android. Whether or not Google and Clearwire have a relationship is another matter. Google said it does not have a relationship with Clearwire; Clearwire wouldnt comment either way.


Click here to read about speculation that Google may gobble up Sprint.

Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence said he thinks Google needs a partner like Clearwire to go in for the 700MHz spectrum when the FCC puts it up for auction in January. By partnering, Google and Clearwire can split the bill and enjoy some political cover, he said, because if Google becomes a full-on carrier, that will cause some conflict with its Android initiative.

"Some move by Google to become a carrier, even if it doesnt ultimately turn out that way, may scare people off," Sterling said.

Some analysts believe owning and operating a wireless network would be too costly and complex for a company whose bread and butter is selling online ads.

Forrester Research analyst Maribel Lopez said Google just needs to get Android on handsets and the company can "accomplish everything they want to do."

Golvin agreed, noting that Google would likely make a deal with one or more network equipment makers and network operators to build and operate a network that would favor Googles open approach.


Google faces an uphill battle with Android. Click here to read more.

Sprint and Clearwires busted deal underscores the tenuous state of the wireless market. Case in point: When Google and EarthLink bid to run wireless for San Francisco in April 2006, they faced not only competition from IBM and Cisco, but also opposition from politicians.

Regardless of what happens, Googles quest for wireless network openness shows that it is intent on shaking up the long-standing dominance AT&T, Verizon and other carriers have had in the United States.

Google, it seems, has both the clout and the moxie to do so. Googles efforts may open up the wireless carrier market; at the least they indicate that the company is showing that it "thinks it can move a mountain," Sterling said.


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