AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint…and Google?

Google lays the groundwork to sell wireless service directly to consumers.

Google may soon join the likes of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. The Internet search giant is working on becoming the next wireless carrier.

Google, which makes Android software, has inked deals with Sprint and T-Mobile that allow the company to carry its service over their networks instead of building its own, which would be time-consuming and expensive, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sprint and T-Mobile are the third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers in the U.S.

“The move is one of the strongest signals yet that Google, based in Mountain View, California, is stretching its ambitions far beyond YouTube videos and the Gmail email service,” the Journal said.

In fact, Google has already expanded its services. It became an Internet service provider with Google Fiber. “It even has its own VoIP phone service called Google Voice, which allows people to get a Google phone number and call people through Gmail or Hangouts over Wi-Fi,” CNN Money said.

Google becoming a wireless carrier stands to benefit consumers, potentially driving the other carriers to reduce their plan prices and improve network speeds, according to the Journal.

Google will pay T-Mobile and Sprint just $2 per gigabyte, CNN Money said. That means Google could offer consumers dirt-cheap wireless service. Sprint negotiated a usage cap into its contract with Google, allowing it to renegotiate if Google’s service is wildly popular and lots of people sign up. But Google’s odds of beating the Big Four at their own game are “practically nil,” according to the CNN Money report, which added:

Existing carriers don’t want wireless service to become a commodity. Short of building out its own wireless network, Google will have to go through one of the Big Four to get national coverage.

There’s no word yet on when Google could offer wireless service to consumers or how much it would cost.

CNN Money said Google’s move could really shake up the wireless industry.

If successful, Google’s plan could pave the way for Apple to sell its own wireless service with every iPhone. And Facebook and other companies with a vested interest in connecting people to the Internet could get involved, too.

But there’s a lot of risk associated with being a wireless carrier, too. When service inevitably goes down or connections fail, customers will blame Google — not Sprint or T-Mobile — for the disruptions.

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