Google’s Nova MVNO will automatically switch between best available networks



It was only last week we caught wind of Google’s plans to become an MVNO to provide affordable wireless service and we’ve already gotten some early details. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Google’s use of both T-Mobile and Sprint’ s towers won’t make for awkward hand-offs or the need to buy phones specific to your market.

That is thanks to new cellular technology Google will utilize that can measure the quality of networks in your area — including any available WiFi hotspots — and hop onto the best one. T-Mobile and Sprint’s networks aren’t superstars alone, but combining the two with technology like this should squelch the fears of anyone who hopes to sign up for the service once it’s made available.

That’s as much as we know by now. It’s coming, it’s coming soon, and we hope it’ll be every bit as good as we’ve imagined a Google-made wireless carrier could be.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. Any competition is good competition in my book.

    1. Bingo. Stick it to the big guys as much and as often as possible. And, coming from Google, this makes the big guys take notice.

    2. I assumed Apple would have beaten Google to offering this kind of service. Maybe even outright buy At&t or Verizon. They certainly got the money. Does Google have a war chest that large? Google wants to compete with internet providers, why not just buy Sprint and T-Mobiile?

  2. Interesting. Can someone who may know about contracting for an MVNO explain what Sprint/T-Mobile have to gain from the deal? I’m assuming they’ll obviously get paid, but what happens if the service takes off and does better than the two?

    1. Would you want to partner your company with Google?

      1. Simple answer…. hells yes. That is a train you want to be connected to.

    2. They have money to gain.

      If subs switch from Sprint or Tmo to this, then they still get a piece of the action. Less than before but not a complete income loss.

      If they switch from other carriers, then they still get a piece of the action and hopes for converting the new subs to their direct services. Converted subs of any sort is new revenue.

      And if everyone just goes this way, they get a piece of the action and fewer direct customer support costs.

      (That’s a simplified version, I hope for some slack and being read in context ok.)

    3. MVNO’s have been around for a long time and haven’t posed a substantial threat to any of the largest carriers, that’s unlikely to change just because it’s Google’s MVNO. MVNO customers also get the lowest QoS on a carrier network, the priority goes Postpaid – Host carrier prepaid – MVNO. If you’re on a congested cell and you’re sucking hind teat on an MVNO, it’s gonna be your service that suffers first.

      MVNO’s have nice potential but can definitely be a mixed bag of results when it comes to actual performance, but short of Google actually buying T-mobile this is likely the closest you’re going to get to an actual Google-branded cellular service.

      1. Google probably didn’t want to commitment of buying T-mobile which I think is a shame, they could have done great things with T-mobile and would likely continue to make T-mobile great.

        But Google has commitment issues, just look at all of the beta tags and shut down services they’ve tried, they likely didn’t want to commit to buying T-mobile, which is unfortunate because I think the mvno route is a little too half assed and while it may be moderately successful. I don’t think it will change the wireless landscape as they hope.

    4. Sprint and Tmobile get bulk contracts from Google, basically its like Google buying up hundreds of thousands of contracts from Tmobile and Sprint, and bundling them into a simple package and selling the service as a single line. Its like cell phone service from a wholesale dealer who buys the contract in bulk as oppose to a single contract thus getting the “ultimate best” rate.

  3. can you imagine having this and just loving….then hating your connection depending on where you are exactly? And is it going to be like Wifi where it is always searching for a connection and killing your battery??

    1. I’ve noticed WiFi doesn’t suck down battery life as bad as having no signal or being on cellular data. Remember these are two big national carriers, and you’ll have the power of both which should give you a good connection at all times.

      1. good point…but like u said, “as bad as having no signal or being on cellular data”, I was actually aiming for that point. what if you are going into and out of areas where one is stronger than the other. Is that going to drain your battery while searching for cellular networks all of the time??

        1. You’re already doing that on a single network, the phone determining if it’s time to switch to a different tower or different frequency on the same tower.

  4. So Google’s service will always run on T-Mobile then? At least in my city it probably will. Sprint sucks!

    1. haha! sounds like it

    2. And around here I would always be on Sprint never T-Mobile

  5. From what I understand, Google will over Data only (and hopefully some small allotted minutes for emergency calling) in which you’ll use your Google Voice number via Hangouts to make/receive your calls.

    For Google’s part, this is a great way to promote the use of Hangouts. I already use it and strictly using GV via wifi until this launches.

    1. I have never used Hangouts and dont really plan on it….so I guess this will not be for me.

      1. I seriously doubt they’ll force you to use Hangouts for SMS. That said, what don’t you like about Hangouts? I’ve found it to be nicer than the old, stock Android messaging app.

        1. I have not used it in over a year to be honest…but when i did, my data usage went up and my battery drained quickly from using it. i’m guessing that its better now??

          1. I haven’t had any issues with data usage or battery drain from it.

          2. maybe i’ll give it a go again then

          3. Use Messenger instead for SMS, straight from Google. It works much better than Hangouts and stock messaging apps from my experience and if you don’t actually need the Hangouts service it’s best to leave that heavy service off your phone.

          4. yeah I read up on it last night and it has a lot of impact on your phone in quite a few ways from what I have read. I use stock messenger and it does what I need it to do and has quite a bit of customization….I just dont know what the benefits for me would be using hangouts since I’m not a Google+ guy

        2. It may be nicer than the stock SMS app, but I find EvolveSMS so much more useful than Hangouts.

    2. My only issue with this is I do not want to port my current number over to Google Voice. I like using my current Google Voice number for things such as craigslist and when companies ask for my phone number.

      1. You can always get a second #. I block a ton of companies & people on GV but I’ve used it as my primary number & have different voice mails depending on who is calling

        1. I will have to look into that.

      2. If you just need a random number, why not just make another GV with another Google account? Hangouts will ring as many accounts as you want. You can be logged into all of them as far as I can tell.

    3. Yup I use FreedomPop and use Hangouts/Voice. Works well since I get 1GB LTE on the free plan and have WiFi nearly all the time anyway.

  6. So… T-mobile until you walk into a building?

    1. tried to vote up….then vote down, then vote up again cause i liked this that much haha

    2. And get outside major cities and away from the interstate….

    3. It depends on your area. We are talking about T-mobile and Sprint. Honestly, T-mobile is way more reliable in my area ( even inside buildings ) than Sprint.

      1. And the reverse is true in my area. Hence why using both networks is better than either.

    4. Sounds like an issue with your phone. Only issue I have is metal roof buildings which both att and verizon have issues also.

      1. Nah it’s a tower thing. Plus, certain CDMA frequencies penetrate buildings better than GSM in general – that was the basis of my comment.

        1. There’s is truth to some frequencies penetrating walls better than others, but I have no issues with T-Mo indoors.

          1. only issue i have with tmobile is in certain basements of certain buildings

        2. Its true about cdma but cdma is on its way out. LTE is the future and the different bands like 700 for indoors and 1900 for long range is the solution. I have had issues with tmobile in buildings with metal roof and in some walmarts for some reason but I had the same issues with sprint. The only solution with sprint was to roam on verizon towers. With tmobile the solution is getting more 700 bands if i remember correctly.

  7. I think the concept of switching to the best network available at your current location is a great idea, and far superior to the way roaming currently works. However, the idea of offloading your customers onto unsuspecting owners of open Wi-Fi hot spots is a bad idea.

    1. Why, comcast does it all the time.

    2. Agreed, at least from a security standpoint. Anyone could setup an open wifi that logs all the traffic for nefarious purposes.

      1. Devon, just like law enforcement agencies do with cellular traffic.

        1. Or the NSA does with the entire internet haha. But at least it’s a lot harder to sniff over the cellular network.

          1. The IMSI-Catcher made for Defcon costed $1500 and only worked on GSM networks, not 3G or LTE which makes it a lot less viable than just buying a $50 wifi router and having people connect to it.

            Location tracking is a serious thing and should be stopped but I view a MITM attack much worse.

    3. Id be willing to bet that there will be a secure tunnel device to a google proxy. There is no way google could legally use just any open wifi ap.

  8. Pricing will determine of I leave T-Mobile….. And phone availability….

    1. Most likely you will be able to bring any unlocked GSM phone to use if they are going to be using T-Mobile

      1. your gonna want those cdma radios also to switch to sprint towers when t moblies are weak.

        1. Yes that is true. I believe the Nexus 5 has the Sprint radios. If this is the case I can just use my Nexus 5.

          1. It says best connection between T-mobile, Sprint and Wifi. I wonder if they will even bother with legacy CDMA, they have google voice, to me it would make sense and sounds like they’d make it a data only cellular service, with voice and text being supplied over the data connection via google voice.

          2. On those two networks, WiFi will be the strongest signal most of the time.

        2. And vice versa.

          1. But most current Sprint phones support CDMA and GSM. No T-Mobile phone support CDMA.

    2. Totally! I am excited at the prospect, and eagerly awaiting the options for my 8 lines.

  9. 2 NANO sim cards please.

  10. Nexus 6 FTW!!!! Glad I got this over the Note4, it shouldnt take much to enable this feature on the Nexus 6, since it has radios for all major carriers unlocked and ready to use.

  11. Now we are talking some good service. I have t mobile but I would sign up for Google. Also launch Google Fiber in San Jose/Santa Clara

  12. Even if you were underneath a Sprint tower, you would use the T-Mobile network.

    1. haahahaha so friggin true

      1. Really entirely not true. Everywhere I ever am, Sprint is 3G or 4G whereas TMobile is 2G.

        If you are making an argument that has plenty of good evidence to support it, then don’t use inaccurate information or made up stuff to support it.

        1. i’m going off of actual usage. get off your high horse, as some people can actually scoff at it from being there and still being there. Example, I have my Nexus 6 w/ AT&T. I love them here in the tampa bay area. I have no issues with them hardly ever. Now, my work-issued phone is with Sprint, which I have with me almost all of the time. My G3 on my Sprint network (again, with me about 85% of the time), gets about 2-3 bars LESS coverage almost everywhere I go….unless I am literally out in the an open area. Then its the same. When I go inside my house, work, Rays stadium, Bucs stadium, International Mall, Tyrone Mall or hell, even a Target, my bars drop to NOTHING on Sprint. All of those places above are from St Pete, to Tampa. So I am using GOOD evidence. REAL LIFE evidence.

          1. I’ll just point that that using bars to compare cell reception is not the best way, but that doesn’t change the fact that Sprint’s signal penetration typically isn’t the greatest. Agree with your overall idea, but your method of comparison is flawed

          2. well….this is true. I cant really complain about that comment cause u are right. I just know how often my G3 on Sprint slows to a crawl when I try to do anything, download anything, or even try to send/receive pics over text. Its why i started carrying around the Nexus on a regular basis.

          3. And you don’t understand the difference between anecdote and evidence. A sample size of one is not data, nor is it very valid as evidence. Coverage for both networks varies greatly from location to location. You can’t make judgements for the nation as a whole based on only your experience.

          4. u are right to an extent. I can, very strongly, give my advice to how much I’m disliking Sprints coverage. I’m glad you get a better Sprint signal, that is awesome! seriously. However, since I do not get good coverage in Florida’s 3rd AND 4th largest city, am I supposed to say….ok so they suck for me, but i’ll learn to love it? no i’m allowed to NOT like it based on the guys verbiage up top to give him some real evidence on why i am not a fan of Sprint.

    2. Yeah, right. Here in Northern VA I get a better Sprint signal than T-Mobile almost everywhere. T-Mob is faster in the places they have a strong signal, but in both of my primary work locations there’s virtually no T-Mobile signal at all.

  13. How would your phone be compatible with both CDMA and GSM network?? I know some can have dual SIM cards but for CDMA you have to have your smartphone provisioned in the switch and it checks if that MEID # is actually registered, for LTE connectivity CDMA uses a UICC(similar to a SIM) but for voice? cdma + gsm radios?? or will it just be all DATA and we will be using Google VOICE for calls?

    1. As the MVNO operator, Google would have the ability to register devices on those networks. As long as you have a phone electronically compatible with both networks, it should be fine. The Nexus 6 would work for this (which is no coincidence, I’m sure). A single SIM could be used for all of the networks involved, as long as it is provisioned with the correct identity apps. Since Google would be the MVNO, they would be the one to provide the SIM for that purpose.

      You’re probably right about Google Voice being used as a base for this service, however I doubt they’d go directly to data for all calls. Sprint had a pilot program with Google that used the GV number as your cell number. That way, you used the voice network (rather than the data network) for calls, but it was all GV. The same could probably be done with this MVNO setup. The data-only thing is workable, but has many drawbacks. Cellular data networks are still not as good at doing real-time voice as are the voice networks they sit next to. In any case, I look forward to see how they do this!

    2. The Nexus 5 and 6 and the iPhone 5(not 5s/c or 6) are compatible.

      1. The iPhone 5s/c and 6 should be compatible. Sprint’s models of each are perfectly capable of connecting to either AT&T or T-Mobile.

  14. Pass, Google has its hands on enough of my info already.

  15. With customer service every bit as bad as every other Google service. Want to talk to a real CS person? Good luck.

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