Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has worked its way into the center of the mobile industry with its Android OS, many mobile services and potentially even its own handsets when it buys Motorola (NYSE: MMI). Reports from Spain are suggesting that it now wants to also become mobile operator — although some claim that the news that this is based on is actually a hoax.
It started with a report that came out yesterday, showing off a Google-branded SIM card and what looked like a Google network connection on a Nexus S device.
The SIM, it writes, is Google’s first foray into being a mobile virtual network operator — a.k.a. an MVNO — which will buy mobile network time wholesale and then retail it to users of the cards. The idea, the report continues, is for Google to start rolling this out first in Spain and then extend it to other parts of Europe.
We contacted Google in Europe for comment on this story, and a spokesperson gave the standard reply: “This is a rumor and we don`t comment on rumors.”
But when we responded to ask about the authenticity of the photographs that accompanied the article, she pointed us in the direction of another post, from the Spanish blog Xatak Android.
That’s not a direct response from Google, but perhaps an indirect one: this article notes that the pictures appear to be doctored: “Thanks to [our] readers we have been able to confirm that these images [are] a montage made by a group of people to sift the false news in the media,” it says (appropriately, via Google Translate).
Google, of course, has a lot of assets in hand that would make for a complete mobile operation — much moreso than many of the other attempts we have seen over the years to launch MVNOs (many without long-term success). Google already has the handsets, the operating system — and many services, including Google Voice, which gives users a single number with a load of features like cheap calls, voicemail and SMS transcription and sharing options.
Up to now, Google Voice has only been available in the U.S., but yesterday a report emerged in TNW indicating that the company is testing Google Voice internally — that is, with its own employees — ahead of an international launch. If the SIMs are not doctored, it could be that they were simply being used for that.
That wouldn’t rule out a future MVNO effort from Google. But given that operators around these parts view Google and Android as something of a threat, it’s crazy to think they would be willing partners in such a service.