Google Fiber has been an interesting product to watch since it first started rolling out in the Kansas Cities. It’s a broadband service but one coming from a company that has a different agenda than the traditional telecom companies. Google does want the service to make money, but that goal is secondary to helping its core business, ads. This is why Google is comfortable charging less than competitors for a far better service. Google’s endgame is to scale its advertising business, and getting more users on faster Internet connections can help it get there. Charging exorbitant broadband prices won’t.
Our nation’s wireless industry could benefit from something similar — a company coming in with different goals and objectives than the entrenched players that already exist. A company that can afford to offer better prices, more data — perhaps unlimited? — for a far more reasonable price than the $100+ many of us pay per month. We could really use a company that, like Google in wired broadband, will push the industry titans to actually start competing instead of being content with the status quo.
One only has to look at AT&T’s response to Google Fiber in Austin, Texas to see the effects a disruptive entity can have on an industry. AT&T, which was content offering mediocre speeds to its customers for high prices, now feels compelled to bump speeds up to 300 megabits per second and, next year, 1 gigabit per second. Why? The threat of Google Fiber eating its lunch by offering 1 gigabit speeds at a cheaper price.
Now imagine a company like Google swooping into the wireless industry, snatching up spectrum and building out a nationwide network to take on Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Imagine that Google’s mission was to get smartphones with truly unlimited data in everyone’s hands, and it decided to do so at $30-$40 a month. Carriers that have been violating our wallets for years would suddenly be in a big hurry to give us great deals.
This is the kind of competition that should exist in every industry, but in the one that is arguably the most important to the future of our economy — the wireless industry — it doesn’t exist yet. We lag behind other countries in wireless connectivity and our highly restrictive data plans not only prevent us from taking full of advantage of our devices, but also dissuade developers from pushing the envelope with their apps and services.
Until we get a truly disruptive entity involved in the wireless space, I fear that consumers will continue to get the short end of the stick and our country as a whole will continue to fall behind in the wireless world. So who will step up to the plate? Google? Amazon? Facebook? The potential of mobile is only stifled by our lack of an answer.