Google’s wireless deal could kill roaming

Written by on April 9, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 1 Comment

Tin TelephonesGoogle’s recent announcement that it is launching a ‘small-scale wireless service’ made us wonder what they were planning. To Google a small scale service could mean just planet earth for the moment, or it could mean they have something up their sleeve. Sleeve it is.

In perhaps the most innovative deal between Digital Service Provider (DSP) Google and a telecoms group, they have struck a deal with Three’s owners Hutchison Whampoa to waive roaming charges for their US customers when they travel in regions covered by Hutchison.

You can instantly see the win-win in this case. Three in the UK is actively trying to solve the roaming charge problem for its customers – while innovating with WiFi calling – and this takes things a big step further for its customers. Roaming charges between the US and the rest of the world are notoriously high. One executive from a nameless IT company spent $200 within an hour of arriving in Nice for the TM Forum event last year. If he was a Google customer, this year he would be able to keep data switched on without suffering the consequences.

Not surprisingly perhaps the service will not be available in the rest of Europe for the foreseeable future – which for Google is generally about six months – and this may well be because the writing is already on the wall for roaming in Europe. So there is no opportunity to leverage.

Even though ex European Commissioner for a Digital Europe Neelie Kroes gave in to ‘lobbying’ from telecoms giants such as Vodafone as she put the deadline for the end of roaming charges back and then back again, this may send a clear signal. If roaming cannot be abolished by regulation, then it will be pushed out by competitive innovation. It is ironic that the very ‘OTT players that drive digital demand’ (Neelie Kroes) would be the ones to finally force operators to rethink their roaming strategy.

This news from Google heralds an exciting and disruptive few months and years ahead, as they, and others ‘experiment’ with their small-scale fibre roll outs, WiFi and 4G laden hot air balloons and drone experiments and operators find themselves having to think fast, and a long way outside the box, to keep up with them.

Read this more recent analysis of the Google play.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Bassam says:

    well, i would like to see this technology in the Arab world as well. We spend alot of money when we roam in the gulf or the middle east and change sims consecutively. Go Google, we wait with patience this remarkable tech to see the limelight;)

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