Google to launch mobile network
Google has announced plans to launch a virtual mobile network in the US, with the aim of demonstrating technical innovations and improving the quality of wireless connections for users of its Android devices.
Details of the plan, known as 'Project Nova', were unveiled by Google's Sundar Pichai at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Mr Pichai was recently promoted to second in command of the company, reporting to co-founder Larry Page.
Google's virtual mobile network will reportedly piggyback on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. Subscribers will be able to switch seamlessly between cellular and Wi-Fi connections, and between the masts of competing mobile phone networks, Mr Pichai said.
Dropped calls may also become less of a problem, as phones will automatically pick the best signal for routing calls, texts and data, and try to re-connect if the communication is cut off mid-conversation.
Mr Pichai said that the service will be small-scale at first, and is not intended to compete with the four big US national carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile).
"We don’t intend to be a network operator at scale. All innovation in computing happens at intersection of hardware and software. That is why we do Nexus devices. We do it at enough scale to achieve impact," he said.
"We are at a stage now where it is important to think about hardware software and connectivity together."
Project Nova is part of a wider move by Google increase its investment in networks and connectivity.
Mr Pichai also gave updates on Project Link, which aims to bring fibre-optic broadband to parts of Africa, Project Loon, which involves beaming 4G mobile internet from helium-filled balloons, and Project Titan, which delivers broadband via solar-powered glider planes.
Project Loon, in particular, is almost ready for business, with most of the balloons now able to stay aloft for six months at a time.
“We think we can bring first-world connectivity to many rural areas,” he said. “You can imagine planes and balloons which we can stitch together to create this mesh of floating cell towers. It sounds like science fiction at first but we’ve made tremendous progress.”
Also speaking at Mobile World Congress yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said he would love to work more closely with Google to connect the developing world to the internet.
Facebook's Internet.org project, launched in 2013, also aims to bring more people online. Last year the company unveiled a new mobile app that allows people in developing countries to access basic services over the internet for free.