Google wireless plan has one catch

GOOGLE’s planned wireless service may launch by the end of March, but it will work only on the company’s latest Nexus brand smartphone and not on other phones using Google’s Android operating system, people familiar with the matter said.

\n

Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of products, speaks during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona , Spain, on Monday.  Picture: REUTERS

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products, speaks during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona , Spain, on Monday. Picture: REUTERS

\n

 

\n

The service, designed to switch among Wi-Fi and cellular networks, will initially be available only on the latest Nexus 6 smartphone designed by Google and made by Motorola Mobility, a former Google unit now owned by China’s Lenovo Group, two people familiar with the matter said. One of the people said the service won’t work with older Nexus devices, such as LG Electronics’ Nexus 5.

\n

Google executive Sundar Pichai on Monday confirmed plans for a wireless service, the latest sign that Google’s ambitions extend beyond selling ads and services over the internet to influencing how internet access is delivered.

\n

People familiar with Google’s plans said it expects to launch the service in coming weeks, but the start may be delayed. The service will weave together the cellular networks of T-Mobile US and Sprint and available Wi-Fi networks, picking the best at any moment and location to improve the overall quality of calling and internet access, people familiar with the service have said.

\n

Making this work requires close co-ordination between smartphone hardware and software, something Google gets from its Nexus program, according to people familiar with the matter.

\n

With other Android devices, handset makers and wireless carriers influence how the operating system works. The Nexus program is also a way for Google to show off new technology and influence how other companies in its Android ecosystem develop future devices and features.

\n

“Our goal here is to drive a set of innovations which we think the system should adopt,” Mr Pichai said this week.

\n

Motorola has experience with new kinds of wireless services that can switch between different networks. Three Motorola handsets — the Moto X, G and E — support services from Republic Wireless that mostly work through Wi-Fi but fall back on Sprint’s cell network when necessary.