Is ‘leaked’ news that Google wants to be a bigger player in the US mobile industry (again) just a strategy to ‘tweak’ incumbents and increase the speed of innovation in the mobile industry, or do they really want to be in the mobile service provider business? It’s a big question, and one that executives at Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are no doubt pondering.
Let’s examine three ways Google can push the industry harder in terms of service quality and affordability:
- Price reduction through seamless WiFi offload – Since they are paying Sprint and T-Mobile wholesale rates for using their network, it will be in Google’s best interests to make WiFi offload within the Android OS as seamless and automated as possible. Want to watch that movie on your phone? Google can remind you to wait until you’re on WiFi, and direct you to the nearest Hotspot.
- Creation of alternative pricing models using ads – If there is anyone that can finally combine fine-grained location, advertising revenue, and end-user billing into a value proposition that subsidizes my mobile service through advertising, it’s probably Google. Want to REALLY cut your mobile bill in half? Just let us push relevant local offers to your home screen.
- Customer Care Costs – Shaving a couple of dollars a month off customer service costs makes a massive difference in the long-term economics of the business, and Google’s team has the benefit of building out a greenfield customer service experience, with almost 100% of the transactions automated and online.
Now let’s look at the three reasons they could fail even if it’s a killer offering: distribution, distribution, and distribution. Ask any MVNO what it takes to be successful, and they’ll tell you it’s physical “doors.” While Google’s digital properties like Search, Play Store, etc. are incredible for discovering and buying digital goods and services, just ask the folks over at Amazon (Amazon Fire phone anyone?) about how that works when you are selling mobile. If Google can’t build the distribution relationships with BestBuy, WalMart, Target, etc. required, it is unlikely they’ll get enough subscribers to build a meaningful (to them) business.
Whether they’re after 10,000 customers, or 100,000,000, let’s be clear: Google entering ANY business should be enough to keep incumbents up at night and accelerate the pace of innovation and disruption. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out – go get ‘em guys!