Google Reportedly On The Verge Of Launching 'Nova' Cellular Phone Service To Compete With Big Four Carriers
Reports indicate that Google has taken definitive steps towards launching their own cellular phone service, making a long-whispered rumor sound like more than just hearsay. Google is working on deals with both Sprint and T-Mobile to become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on their infrastructure. While details are sparse for now, this might be your surest bet to avoid bloatware if there ever was one.
An MVNO is a third-party who uses a major carrier's network to provide service. For Sprint and T-Mobile, this is a key revenue source that helps justify their investments in improving their coverage. For consumers, current players like FreedomPop and Virgin Mobile provide additional choice and price competition. While most MVNOs offer non-contract plans, it is not clear at this time whether that would also be true for Google. This could be a venue for them to subsidize the Nexus line.
The report, first published by The Information, mentions that the program has been codenamed "Nova" internally. That sounded familiar to us, because we had been tipped about a similar program called "Nova" last year. We had not been able to get more info and did not report on it - until now.
Our tipster told us that Google Voice (now, that would probably be Hangouts) would be the backbone of the Google plans, which would be data-only. With access to mobile data and possession of a Voice number, the experience would theoretically be nearly equivalent to a conventional phone plus data plan. The tipster also told us that the plans would offer unlimited data, while leaning on WiFi where available.
Neither today's report nor our tip makes it clear what network(s) the plan would utilize. T-Mobile is a GSM carrier while Sprint uses CDMA. For high-speed data, these networks are interoperable provided devices have the right frequency radios. Legacy interoperability (that is, 3G) is dicier.
This isn't the first time you may have heard about Google as an MVNO, either. In April, we reported on a rumor that Google was planning some sort of venture to offer cell service in Google Fiber markets. Today's report is far less modest than just a small rollout, but don't be surprised if it does in fact start on a limited basis like the original rumor.
At this point, Google doesn't have to do much to keep the big carriers on its side. While years ago appeasement was necessary to make sure Android devices were given a fair shake, they now occupy a huge chunk of market share. The benefit that comes with that is things like this; pissing off AT&T and Verizon isn't much of a risk like it once was. Instead, a Google-led cell phone service could drive prices down and give Google control over distribution and software of their (and other OEMs') devices.
For those of you who have been claiming Google would launch their own carrier since the launch of the Nexus One, congratulations! You're sort of, kind of right. They're never going to build out their own towers and the like, but this is almost like being a carrier.
Boost Mobile $35 Plan Will Supply 2.5GB Of 4G LTE To Customers Who Commit To Automatic Payments Starting Feb. 3rd
Boost Mobile is one of the many ways you can get on the Sprint network without paying Sprint prices. The prepaid brand offers smartphone plans with unlimited talk and text going from $35 (1GB of data) to $55 (10GB). Starting on February 3rd, it will offer any customer that enrolls in Auto Re-Boost 2.5GB for the price of 1.
For comparison, T-Mobile provides 2GB of data for $45 with its Simple Starter Plan. MetroPCS offers 2GB for $40 a month. Boost Mobile's plan will come in at under both.
Auto Re-Boost is a fancy name for monthly automatic payments. This way you don't have to worry about making sure your account stays current (and Boost Mobile has a better chance of getting your money). If you think you might stick with the carrier for a while, this sounds like the way to go. For a limited time, Boost Mobile will also take $100 off the price of a phone when you port your number from another carrier, so there's that to consider as well.
MetroPCS Unveils $50/Month Unlimited, Unthrottled LTE Promo, Adds 1 GB to Other Plans
T-Mobile owned MetroPCS announced a new promotion today that cuts the price of its unlimited talk and text with unlimited, unthrottled data plan from $60 to $50 per month. The promotion is only available to users with an LTE capable MetroPCS branded phone. Bring your own phones and CDMA devices are not eligible for this offer. According to the offer's terms and conditions it's not available in Indiana either, which seems like a strange restriction.
This is a limited time promotion but customers who activate it by April 5 will get to keep the $50/month pricing indefinitely.
In addition, MetroPCS is giving its regular $40 and $50 plans an extra 1 GB of high data: With these changes MetroPCS' plan lineup looks like this:
$40/month for unlimited talk, text and data including 2GB of high-speed data at up to 4G LTE speeds (up from 1GB)
$50/month for unlimited talk, text and data including 4GB of high-speed data at up to 4G LTE speeds (up from 3GB)
$60/month for unlimited 4G LTE talk, text and data (sign up for $50/month until April 5 with a MetroPCS LTE smartphone)
MetroPCS plan prices include all taxes and fees, even state and local sales taxes and e911 fees. After the high speed data limit is reached, speeds are throttled to 128 Kbps for the remainder of the plan month. Hotspot use (limited to the plan's high speed data allotment or 2.5 GB/month on the unlimited high speed data plan) is available for an extra $5 per month.
Unlimited everything including unlimited, unthrottled data for $50/month is a great deal. I can understand restricting the offer to LTE phones as LTE uses spectrum more efficiently than 3G UTMS and 4G HSPA+. But the requirement to use a MetroPCS phone doesn't make any sense to me. Most of Metro's phones are sold at heavily subsidized prices, whereas BYOP phones cost the company nothing. The device restriction also seems calculated to displease iPhone fans as MetroPCS doesn't sell the iPhone directly although unlocked and T-Mobile iPhones do work on Metro.