TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Google Declines to Rule Out Wireless Airwave Bid

Google Declines to Rule Out Wireless Airwave Bid

Eric Auchard (
Sat, 22 Apr 2006 12:28:48 -0500

By Eric Auchard

Google Inc. on Thursday opened the door to the possibility that it
could bid on U.S. licenses for wireless radio spectrum in order to
offer Internet access services, but said no plans were imminent.

Co-founder Larry Page said the company has no wireless spectrum
acquisition plans to announce but declined to rule out speculation
that Google may be gearing up for a push far beyond wireless trials it
is working on in the San Francisco area.

"We haven't announced any plans with regard to spectrum, but we are
generally interested in improving access to the Internet," he said in
a tone mixing the excitement of a keen science student with that of a
billionaire ready to pay for the undertaking.

He was responding to a question by a Wall Street analyst over whether
the company's wireless strategy would lead the company to bid in
upcoming U.S. airwave auctions.

"In general we are interested in anything that can provide better,
more transparent access to the Internet," said Page, who is
co-president of Google in charge of products and also the company's
biggest shareholder.

Later, in a phone interview, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt also said
Google had no current plans to bid on radio spectrum.

The Federal Communications Commission is slated to auction 90
megahertz of wireless airwaves starting June 29 and initial
applications to participate in the sale are due by May 10.

The licenses could be used for advanced wireless services like
high-speed Internet access and video.

The FCC is also expected by January 28 to start auctioning 2008
wireless airwaves that television broadcasters are giving up as they
move to digital signals. The two auctions are expected to raise
billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury.

Google is working on a citywide wireless project with Internet access
provider EarthLink in San Francisco, and a trial project of its own in
the town of Mountain View, where its headquarters is based. It has
said it is studying how it might use advertising to offer free
municipal wireless access.

Schmidt, asked about radio spectrum, said, "We don't have a huge bid
being prepared." He joked that a random engineer might be working on a
side project without his knowledge.

"It would take some work for an engineer on 20 percent time to prepare
a billion dollar bid," Schmidt said.

Google encourages some employees to devote a portion of their work
week to so-called "20 percent time" projects to develop innovative
ideas outside their day-to-day jobs.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington, D.C.)

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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