Is Google interested in pursuing deals with WiMAX operators outside of the U.S. to continue furthering its open Internet business model? Google, of course, is one of the investors in the new Cleawire, which now entitles the search engine to be the default provider of Web and local search on Clearwire's network and Clearwire will preload several Google services including maps for mobile, Gmail and YouTube.
This week, though denials have come from all of those said to be involved, French daily Les Echos is reporting that a WiMAX joint venture is in the works in France, and it involves funding from Google and the ISP Free, a unit of Iliad, and Bollore Group's Bollore Telecom. Free is the sole holder of a national license for WiMAX and Bollore Telecom holds 20 regional licenses for the service. A nationwide network in France is estimated to require $1.5 billion investment and would need the assistance of technology providers and wealthy backers.
With Google eyeing wireless as the next growth frontier, you have to wonder if these types of investments will become prevalent, especially as Google hits walled gardens with the traditional wireless operators in Europe. Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff recently said the company is in discussions with European companies to create partnerships similar to Clearwire's deal in the U.S. to help it build out mobile WiMAX across Europe. Clearwire owns licenses in seven European countries, covering about 200 million people. That has to be an enticing proposition for Google and Intel for that matter, which has already done a significant number of investments in operators worldwide to push WiMAX. In fact, if the Clearwire deal goes smoothly, it wouldn't be surprising to see Google and Intel create some sort of joint venture with the goal of investing in international WiMAX operators who really need the funds to achieve some massive rollouts of WiMAX.--Lynnette