The next step in Google’s ambitious wireless strategy became clear May 7 as the search giant agreed to sink $500 million into the revitalization of struggling wireless Internet provider Clearwire.
Google is looking for support for its Android mobile operating system.
Google, along with Intel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, is investing $3.2 billion for the union of Sprint Nextel’s and Clearwire’s wireless broadband businesses into a new wireless communications company.
The new Clearwire will work to create the first nationwide mobile WiMax network, aiming to bring speedy wireless Internet access to the country’s consumers, businesses, schools and government agencies.
WiMax pipes data much faster than today’s 3G wireless networks, which can suffer from high latency. This speed improvement will allow users to consume multimedia and other bandwidth-intensive content from laptops, smart phones and consumer electronics devices.
Clearwire earlier this year said it would begin migrating its current customers to Gmail and Google Calendar and will use AdSense for Search to provide Google search capabilities on future Clearwire portal applications.
But now Google will be the search provider and a preferred provider of other applications for Clearwire’s future retail product.
Most significantly, Clearwire has agreed to support Google’s Android operating system software in its future voice and data devices that it provides to its retail customers.
Android needs a major launching pad and footprint if it is going to succeed as an alternative to Symbian, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, the iPhone and other operating systems. With Android devices on the market, Google can then better control how its search, ads and apps reach mobile gadget users.
Google also agreed to work with Clearwire on an open Internet business protocol for mobile broadband devices.
In an expanded relationship with Sprint, Google will become the default provider of Web and local search services, which will be enabled with location information. Sprint will preload Google Maps for mobile, Gmail and YouTube on select mobile phones.
The deal and its players, coming after Sprint and Clearwire failed to unite last year, has been rumored for months but may have been put on hold due to the recent Federal Communications Commission’s 700MHz wireless spectrum auction. Though outbid in that auction by Verizon, Google got the FCC to open up access to the spectrum on all applications and devices.
Now Google has a significant stake in a next-generation wireless Internet company that could give Verizon and AT&T a run for their mobile money.
The new Clearwire expects to cover 120 million to 140 million people in the United States by the end of 2010. If those people are using Android devices, Google will indeed become a force in the market, albeit still behind Symbian and Windows Mobile.