The news: Google has partnered with Ericsson to provide cloud computing services and 5G connectivity for time-sensitive applications like robotics and VR, per Bloomberg. Early tests have started in conjunction with Italy's Telecom Italia.
More on this: Google will serve as the cloud services provider, while Ericsson will build the 5G wireless equipment.
How we got here: The partnership with Ericsson is Google’s latest attempt to dip its toes in telecom waters. The search giant has long been interested in developing a side business as a quasi-ISP:
The bigger picture: The investments in submarine cables, edge networks, Wi-Fi, and cellular connectivity may seem individually insignificant, but taken as a whole they reflect Google’s ambitions to provide not just the internet’s infrastructure but access to it as well.
Big Tech companies like Google are already under fire for being too powerful and ubiquitous. By making inroads into telecoms as a service provider, Google could raise concerns about potential anticompetitive practices. At the same time, tech giants are competing to gain more control of the infrastructure. Amazon’s Sidewalk mesh service makes it an ISP of sorts with over 58.3 million smart home terminals, and Facebook has relentlessly sought partnerships with ISPs in countries like India while investing heavily in telecoms throughout Africa.
What’s next? It’s never easy to tell with Google. The company is notorious for starting and bailing on projects, which makes it hard to decipher if it plans to be involved with anything for the long haul. That said, Google tends to thrive in partnerships where established companies lend their expertise and reputation.
5G and telecoms are areas that involve Google’s core businesses and will serve them well, provided the projects don’t run afoul of regulators. The telecoms industry in particular stands to gain from modernization and increased investments, but it’s unclear whether companies like Google are the best bet for growth in the sector.