Google: We’re 80% Partners of Broadband Service Providers & Only 5% Competitors

Google's Project Loon uses hot air balloons to provide broadband to people in remote areas. Image source: YouTube
By Charles Hall

Google has often sent mixed signals as to whether it wants to be a major broadband service or only show telcos and cablecos what could be done with broadband technology – and what consumers can do with speeds in excess of 1 Gbps. The latest communication is from Google’s Mike Blanche, who manages telecoms strategic partnerships and broadband projects like Loon and Titan. Blanche said at the Digital Futures event that Ovum held in London that Google’s efforts complement rather than compete against traditional service providers. He said Google Fiber competes against them in only a small number of areas and regards itself as their partner.

Blanche said, “We’re 80% partner … and 5% competitor. It’s true we compete with operators in a few areas but not as many as you think. We don’t want to be the world’s ISP.” He said Google is “10% supplier, giving you tools to help build your business, and 5% customer.”

Blanche said basically the same thing last month at Tech Week Europe. At other times, especially in the early days of Google Fiber, Google has said it wants to show what can be done with new broadband technology and the variety of applications that will be developed if people have access to gigabit broadband. At the same time google offers the same services that cablecos and telcos offer such as telephony, pay TV and broadband. A residence that subscribes to Google Fiber is not going to subscribe to a telco or cableco.

Blanche said Google can’t compete with the retail presence of service providers and the direct relationships they have with subscribers. He said, “We’re looking at ways we can connect people not connected. There are still 4 billion people not connected. With both Loon and Titan, we’re working with the operators to connect areas not connected today or need better coverage. We can only do this in partnership with operators. Google doesn’t want to be world’s ISP but we do want to bring innovation to solve the world’s problems together.”

Project Loon uses hot air balloons to provide broadband to people in remote areas. Project Titan uses LTE base stations on unmanned aircraft in emergency areas.

Blanche said service providers and Google need each other and have to work together to create, maintain and update the infrastructure that can deliver and create new services. He said, “I think we’ve moved beyond the zero sum argument between content providers and access providers. Content providers invest a lot in infrastructure too. Google was the largest investor with $20 billion over the past three years – that’s more as a proportion of revenue than telcos.”

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