If Google had its way, everyone in the world would be on the Internet, using Google services. To bring that goal to fruition, Google is reportedly working to build cellular networks in Africa and Southeast Asia to help bring hundreds of millions of people online for the first time.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is in talks with countries like Kenya and South Africa to fund and deploy cellular networks in those countries, using wireless spectrum reserved for television broadcasts.
Bone deep in Google’s business strategy is that the more people that use the Web, the more Google benefits. That is why the company is testing its Google Fiber high-speed Internet access in various locations in the United States and why it bid in U.S. wireless spectrum auctions in 2007 and 2008. Google has long been planning to enter the cellular service market and there is no better testing ground than those portions of the planet that still lack Internet access.
Owning The Plumbing
Google’s play is to not only own what you do on the Internet, but the pipes you use to access it.
Google would provide much of the critical infrastructure, such as the base stations and processors involved in building the networks, the Wall Street Journal reports. It could also employ “high-altitude platforms” – blimps and balloons – that could broadcast cellular signals for hundreds of miles. Google could also build out the network using satellites, a technique that a many remote areas use to quickly add telecommunications services.
If Google can get the populations of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia on the Internet, it can then sell low-cost Android devices into those regions through its manufacturing partners like Samsung, LG, ZTE, HTC and Huawei. Once those eyeballs are online, Google hopes to find ways to make money from them with its advertising and search products.
Google could also push various Android services to these newly connected Internet users. The Android Google Play app store is able to accept payments in 134 countries – giving the company the ability to sell apps, books, music and video to a large portion of the world’s population.
In the end, this is a pure volume move for Google: get more people the capability to get online, give them a portal to do so (smartphones) and get them using Google.