FCC Airwaves Auction and Google Redux

December 27, 2007

So, per usual, I was wrong in my assertion that Google is cooking up something really special for the wireless world and, as such, was aiming to win the upcoming FCC auction. Here’s the pertinent part of a Bloomberg story that changed my mind:  

Google may choose merely to bid the $4.6 billion reserve price as a ‘token gesture’ to the FCC for imposing the open-access rule, Jason Armstrong of Goldman, Sachs & Co. said in a Nov. 28 research note. In that case, Google would probably lose the auction, the New York-based analyst said.  

Meaning, Google flexed its industry muscle to get some policies changed for the ways in which the airwaves can be used, but all they’re going to do is put up the minimum (losing) bid as a little thank you letter to the FCC. How polite.

What puzzles me though is that Google has only produced an under-whelming Android SDK (one developer said “Functionality is not there, is poorly documented or just doesn’t work”). Meanwhile, Google has been doing its research about wireless… literally: papers from their employees include A Large Scale Study of Wireless Search BehaviorBrowsing on Small Screens: Recasting Web Segmentation Into an Efficient Machine Learning Framework, and another paper that suggests a new model for testing wireless call reliability outside of the current “fewer dropped calls” method (A Statistical View of Transient Signals).

In other words, they’re spending a lot of time and money (research, software development, lobbying) to be ahead in the wireless game, but really have nothing yet to show for it. Sigh. 

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