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Google’s Wireless Spectrum Bid: a Stupid Move or a Head Fake?



Robert X. Cringley always has something interesting to say, whenever he’s discussing Google. In his latest PBS column, Cringley tries to figure out why in the world Google bid on the 700Mhz wireless spectrum.

Did Google stipulate 4 conditions to their bid, purely to get in the face of existing wireless carriers? Cringley explains why Google didn’t have to make the conditions…

You see if Google actually bid and won the 700-MHz auction, they could operate the band exactly as they have proposed the FCC require. They could open the spectrum to devices and networks and services with impunity because winning the auction and paying those big bucks would entitle them to do so. It is only because Google doesn’t expect to win, or possibly even to bid, that they are trying to force rules on the eventual winners, the mobile telcos.

Cringley also suggests that Google’s action is either the result of absolute arrogance:

…Google has begun believing its own press releases, which is not a good idea for any company. Google is an arrogant and geeky company with leaders who have isolated themselves to the extent that they may no longer be in touch with reality. So much success so quick may have convinced them they are smarter than they actually are. It happens a lot. It could be happening here.

Or, it’s a bluff:

This could be a fake, a head feint on Google’s part. By attempting to set these conditions on any eventual auction winner, Google is tacitly telling the mobile carriers that it really doesn’t intend to bid or doesn’t intend to bid above the $4.6 billion threshold. Emboldened by this the telcos, who are also arrogant and have a kind of reptilian craftiness, may decide to save their resources and only bid, say, $10 billion. But what if Google bids $20 billion? Well then it’s a whole new ballgame.

I can see Google’s motivation being either, what do you think?