Google is teaming up with T-Mobile and Sprint to offer its own phone plans, according to a report today from The Information. Code-named Project Nova, it will allow people to buy plans for their cell phone from Google, rather than turn to another wireless carrier.
Because Google doesn’t control its own cellular spectrum, it has to use other carriers’ networks. In this case, the company is expected to make a deal with T-Mobile and Sprint for wholesale use of their spectrum, which would make it a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) like Ting. The move would give Google greater control over what phone plans the company offers, and could allow it to try out new initiatives like incredibly discounted phone plans.
Google working with the two smaller carriers in the U.S. to gang up on Verizon and AT&T probably won’t go over all that well with the larger players in the wireless industry, but it’s not clear that there’s really any love lost between the companies to begin with. Verizon and Google have locked horns over the line of Nexus devices in the past, and the Nexus 6 isn’t yet available from Verizon.
Meanwhile, Google and T-Mobile have a long history of working together. The two companies teamed up to sell LG’s G1, the first Android phone ever produced. The Bellevue-based “Un-carrier” is known for shaking up the wireless industry, and allowing Google to run a network on T-Mobile’s spectrum would be an interesting way to subvert the existing balance of power in the wireless industry.
It’ll also be interesting to see how and if Apple responds to this. New iPads the company put on sale last year came with an “Apple SIM” which users could configure to run on the networks of AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile.