False Report: Google Didn't Purchase WiFi Services Vendor ICOA

Despite a bogus press release that "announced" the alleged acquisition, Google has not bought ICOA for $400 million.

Google didn't buy ICOA after all.

A Nov. 26 press release on PRWeb.com purported to announce Google's acquisition of a public WiFi vendor, but the "announcement" turned out to be a fabrication after being reported by a number of news sources.

The press release touted Google's alleged purchase of ICOA, which provides public WiFi access in high-traffic areas around the United States, for $400 million.

Such a purchase actually could make sense for Google, which is a huge promoter of WiFi capabilities through its Chromebook and Android devices and its popular Android mobile operating system.

But the headlines just weren't true, according to Google, which denies that any such purchase was ever made. A Google spokesman declined to comment on the record about the incident.

Several phone calls made Nov. 26 to the Warwick, R.I., offices of ICOA seeking comment on the false press release were not immediately returned.

The press release itself was poorly written and included grammatical errors, including the incorrect use of a possessive in a sentence.

ICOA provides broadband wireless services in high-traffic public locations, including airports, marinas and restaurants, as well as back-office services for hotspot operators and wireless service providers, according to the company's Website.

News reports about the falsity of the acquisition began streaming in later on Nov. 26. CNET reported that ICOA Chief Financial Officer Erwin Vahlsing Jr. confirmed in an email that the acquisition press release was false, but declined to provide other details. ICOA's CEO George Strouthopoulos said that his company has "never had any discussions with any potential acquirers," according to CNET. "Someone, I guess a stock promoter with a dubious interest, is disseminating wrong, false and misleading info in the PR circles. ICOA will report this to the proper authorities."

Other valid WiFi services deals have actually been in the news recently. On Nov. 15, Cisco Systems announced a new WiFi location data analytics platform that will enable businesses and organizations in public venues to better monetize the investments they've made in their WiFi networks by giving customers enhanced consumer experiences.

Google greatly expanded its efforts in the wireless space in May when it paid $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility, which makes mobile phones and provides other services. In August, Google began shaking up the new unit by announcing 4,000 layoffs and the sale of Motorola Mobility's set-top box division. The cuts are being made to try to reverse financial losses in the Motorola unit, which has lost money in 14 out of 16 quarters.

In July, Google gave its first revenue report since officially acquiring Motorola Mobility, posting second-quarter revenue of $12.21 billion, which is a 35 percent increase from $9.03 billion in the second quarter of 2011. The company released its fiscal 2012 second-quarter results July 19. The quarter ended June. 30.

The $12.21 billion second-quarter revenue was up 15 percent from the first quarter of the year, when Google reported $10.65 billion in revenue, according to the company. GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) net income reported in the second quarter was $2.79 billion, compared with $2.51 billion in the second quarter of 2011.

Much of the value in the purchase of Motorola was fueled by Google's desire to bolster its own patent portfolio by bringing in Motorola's estimated $5.5 billion worth of patent holdings. Those patents are seen by Google as assisting the company as it expands its reach into mobile hardware and services around the world.

Google bought the Motorola Mobility unit as it continues to build up its power and holdings in the battle for a bigger chunk of the mobile marketplace, which continues to grow annually.

That's why the alleged "news" of the purported ICOA purchase actually made some sense in the first reports.