Google ready to bid on mobile airwaves

Google announces it will bid on coveted airwaves in January 24 auction as part of plan to launch a U.S. wireless network.

Google announced on Friday that it will bid on coveted airwaves to launch a U.S. wireless network, in a move that could pit the Web search leader against U.S. wireless service providers.

The Silicon Valley-based company had said several months ago it was considering bidding in the auction of 700MHz wireless spectrum due to begin January 24. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission deadline for companies to declare their interest in joining the airwaves bidding is Monday.

The company said it would submit a formal application with the FCC on Monday. Google's application does not include any partners.

"We believe it's important to put our money where our principles are," said the company's chairman and CEO, Eric Schmidt. "Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today's wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet."

The radio spectrum is being returned by broadcasters as they move from analog to digital signals early in 2009. The signals can go long distances and penetrate thick walls. The auction is seen as a last chance for a new wireless player.

Google and other Silicon Valley leaders see the wireless spectrum as a way to create more open competition for mobile services and devices than existing networks--putting the industry on a footing similar to the freewheeling Internet.

The company won some changes in rules governing use of the spectrum several months ago, but was denied other requests, including a rule that would have required winning bidders to resell access to their spectrum on an open wholesale basis.

Other expected bidders include AT&T, and Verizon Wireless, the No. 1 and No 2. U.S. wireless network operators. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group.

Google plans on bidding for the "C" block of 700MHz spectrum. It is uncertain whether Google was considering also bidding on a separate block of spectrum reserved for public safety agencies that could be shared with commercial network operators, the report said.

If its bid proves successful, Google could operate a wireless network itself or seek partners to help it build out the network and to potentially resell wireless services.

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