It looks like Google’s upcoming mobile service won’t be the “small scale” experiment Sundar Pichai painted it to be during MWC 2015. At least when it comes to roaming, the service will operate at a global scale, according to UK’s The Telegraph.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Telegraph reports that Google is in talks with operators from around the world to create a “global network that will cost the same to use for calls, texts and data no matter where a customer is located.” In other words, Google wants to offer free international roaming to all of its users.
Google is in talks with the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, which owns the operator Three (active in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Indonesia and more), to buy wholesale access to its network in order to provide free roaming to users of its future mobile service. Hutchison, which just bought UK’s O2, is an apt partner for Google, thanks to its global reach and the fact that it’s already offering free roaming to its customers.
Presumably, Google will sign up similar deals with other major carriers, creating a global network that lets users talk and get online without worrying about overcharges and buying local SIMs.
Free roaming appears to be a logical extension to Google’s approach in the US. The company has reportedly already signed deals with Sprint and T-Mobile to buy wholesale data, which Google would resell to its users. Google’s customers won’t have to worry about getting the best signal, as the service will automatically switch to the network with the best reception in the area. Roaming will presumably work in a similar way.
Google confirmed through its SVP for Android, Chrome, and apps, Sundar Pichai, that it’s working on its own mobile service, without providing a timeline for launch. However, the Google I/O conference, in late May, would make a great occasion for the debut of the service.
If Google begins offering free roaming, it will join T-Mobile, which has been giving its customers free voice calls and data (capped to 128kbps) internationally since 2013. We don’t know yet if Google will cap roaming connection speeds as well.
As a side note, The Telegraph reports that Google is currently not working on launching its mobile service in the UK. Like Wallet, it looks like the Google cell service will be US-only, at least at launch.