Google Wants to Own the Airwaves, Now

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As if Google's launching a free Wi-Fi network in New York City earlier this month wasn't curious enough, now the search giant is asking the Federal Communications Commission for a license to create an "experimental radio service." What's an experimental radio service, you ask? Well, Google won't say exactly what its doing with the air above its Mountain View, California headquarters, but the details of the FCC application suggest it's trying to build its own proprietary wireless network.

Oh, so this must have something to do with Google Fiber and Google's becoming an Internet service provider, offering insanely fast Internet, right? Again, not exactly. "Google's small-scale wireless network would use frequencies that wouldn't be compatible with nearly any of the consumer mobile devices that exist today, such as Apple's iPad or iPhone or most devices powered by Google's Android operating system," explain The Wall Street Journal's Amir Efrati and Anton Troianovski. "The network would only provide coverage for devices built to access certain frequencies, from 2524 to 2625 megahertz." However, networks using those frequencies are under construction in Asia, just waiting for devices that support them. And last year, Google purchased Motorola Mobility, a mobile phone manufacturer that could ostensibly manufacture such devices. This is starting to sound sort of shady.

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While it's too soon to understand the extent of the company's plans, it certainly looks like Google actually wants to own the airwaves now. Could we see a Google phone that works on a custom built Wi-Fi network, one that nobody else can use? It's very possible. For now, Google's official answer to that line of questioning is that the company experiments all the time with all kinds of things. But according to Steven Crowley, a wireless engineer who first spotted the FCC application, "The only reason to use these frequencies is if you have business designs on some mobile service." 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.