The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Google Coloured!

With Google’s announcement of their Grand Central aquisition I see another slice of the mobile operators’ pie being taken away… and yet another push for the network providers to become nothing more than bit-pipes.

Some pie
Google take another piece of the pie

Today Grand Central…

Grand Central offer terminating telecoms services such as ‘visual voicemail’, call screening and ListenIn™. These (what I would perceive to be) rich services are not widely – if at all – yet offered by the majority of mobile operators.

These services are facilitated by the offering a new single telephone number which I presume you offer out as your main contact number. There is no sign (that I’ve seen) of number portability yet but I would think it would not be too long till you’ll be able to move your mobile number over to Google’s service.

And these services are just the things that could start to replace the mobile operators very own value added services and systems such as their IN and Voicemail.

This latest move follows Google’s launch of location based services for mobile users back in November 2007 which nabbed one of the most sacred (yet amazingly under-used) pieces of information which the mobile network providers held… Location.

Tomorrow the World?

What is different about this latest move from Google though is it’s not just the mobile operators who are having their toes troden on… this time the impact appears to have a much greater reach and it is infact the fixed-line providers who are under threat as well. With terminating services being taken care of the whole telecoms network and service provider industry has a new competitor.

And with rumours of a Skype purchase by Google floating around we could really see one big VoIP service provider to rule them all. In such a world your traditional fixed line and mobile telephone numbers could be used by no one else other than the providers themselves for billing you for your bit-pipe usage.

So what are the traditional networks to do? I suppose they need to look at what ‘value’ they still hold and can uniqely provide to their customers. To be honest I’ve not yet thought about this in any kind of depth but whatever they do they need to move quick and strong to even stand a chance in the long term. These “bit-pipes-to-be” used to be able to say “We know our customers… we know who they are and where they are” but what Google may soon be able to say is “We know OUR customers… we know who they are and where they are… and not just when they’re using their mobile phones”.

I can see an Orange pay-as-you-go customer making a call on their Android powered handset to one of their Gmail contacts (to their global Grand Central number) over Skype (all transparent to the user of course) which calls the destination’s very own Android phone (over VoIP) as well as their Skype client on the netbook and their fixed line phone (over VoIP too)… and all the originating user pays is their “all you can eat” data bill.