This one nearly flew by us because it's pretty US centric, but it carries potential ramifications for the rest of the world...
Search monolith Google late last week confirmed that it will bid on the US government's impending auction of the mobile wireless spectrum in the 700 MHz band, should certain conditions be met by the FCC.
Calling for "greater competition and consumer choice" against the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Cingular it has encouraged the FCC to require the adoption of four types of 'open' platforms as part of the licence conditions:
*Open applications: Consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
*Open devices: Consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
*Open services: Third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
*Open networks: Third parties (like internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at any technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee's wireless network.
As a sign of its commitment to this lofty cause the multinational confirmed that CEO Eric Schmidt sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, stating that should the FCC adopt all four license conditions requested above, Google intends to commit a minimum of $4.6 billion to bidding in the upcoming 700 MHz auction. A full copy of the letter and the release itself can be found here.
A few ifs here, but if Google's conditions are met and if it wins the auction, the company would likely change the face of US mobile networks since it has long been a closed and stagnant market. Of course, the FCC may (probably) not agree and even if it does Google itself is no charity and has long been rumoured to be working on a mobile phone. It has also inked deals with numerous handset manufacturers in the last year to provide its search engine natively on their offerings, including Apple's iPhone.
For the record, 700MHz airwaves will be returned to broadcasters when they move from analogue to digital signals in early 2009.
So Google: beam of light in a profit driven age or sneaky wolf in sheep's clothing...?