Google's mobile promise

Robert Clark
29 Oct 2007

The stat of the week last week was the $18 AT&T is paying Apple each month for every iPhone sold. That's more than the ARPU of most Asian carriers - a 50% hike over China Mobile's, for example.

The iPhone-style arrangement, as well as taking AT&T to its best quarter ever in net wireless ads, is surely a pointer to the mobile future. Apple revenue share deal was not the first but it's certainly been the biggest and it seems to have worked spectacularly well for AT&T.

But the important partnerships in mobile are going to be not with handsets but with Web 2.0. In particular, the drums are beating very loudly for Google's entry into cellular.

That has to be a good thing. If anyone can kickstart mobile advertising, Google can. It has a brand and a track record for innovation and it's coming into mobile just at the time when networks can finally deliver broadband to the handset. And how the cellular business needs a wide new revenue stream.

Google in its usual fashion is tight-lipped about its plans, other than to point to a lack of innovation in mobile. Reportedly it is building a platform for mobile handsets that presumably will include search, mapping and related advertising.

The fact that Google is seeking to buy wireless spectrum doesn't automatically make it a threat to incumbent operators. The fact is, in mobile as in longhaul, it will need partners - service providers in particular.

If you're an Asian cellular firm and Google isn't your partner, get on the plane right away. It'll cost, but it'll cost more to have them at the top of your competitor's start page.

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