RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Could Google be your phone company in the future?

Earlier this month, Google acquired GrandCentral Communications, a startup that enables users to integrate all their phone numbers and voice mailboxes into one account that is accessible over the Web.

While GrandCentral is not a phone company, the deal demonstrates Google’s determination to enter the voice markets.

On Friday, the tech titan confirmed that it could be a major bidder for FCC wireless spectrum. AT&T and Verizon, the two largest traditional phone carriers, will bid as well.

This auction is one worth following. The airwaves that are available permit signals to be sent over long distances. Those signals also penetrate walls.

Google plans to bid several billion dollars if the Federal Communications Commission allows winners to in turn wholesale spectrum to other buyers.

Google and others believe the new spectrum could lead to more consumer choice for high-speed wireless services. However the FCC rules for the bidding do not contain a wholesale provision, according to some sources.

Google Wants More Choice for Consumers

The auction will take place sometime in the next several months.

Eric Schmidt told the F-C-C that choice for consumers is important, according to The Associated Press.

“In short, when Americans can use the software and handsets of their choice, over open and competitive networks, they win," Schmidt said in a letter.

The search engine giant has plenty of money to use for a wireless bid if it so chooses.

The bidding could get nasty. A senior executive at AT&T said the time is coming for Google to “put up or shut up.”

A Call for “Open” Platfortms

Writing on Google’s blog, Chris Sacca, head of Special Initiatives for the company, spelled out Google’s recommendations for how the wireless spectrum should be “open.”

“In the U.S., wireless spectrum for mobile phones and data is controlled by a small group of companies, leaving consumers with very few service providers from which to choose,” Sacca wrote. “With that in mind, last week, as the federal government prepares for what is arguably its most significant auction of wireless spectrum in history, we urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules to make sure that regardless of who wins the spectrum at auction, consumers’ interests are the top priority. Specifically, we encouraged the FCC to require the adoption of four types of "open" platforms as part of the auction:
• “Open applications: consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;

• “Open devices: consumers should be able to utilize their handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;

• “Open services: third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and

• “Open networks: third parties (like Internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at any technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network.
“As numerous public interest organizations noted earlier this week, all four of these conditions adopted together would promote a spirit of openness, and could spur additional forms of competition from web-based entities, such as software applications providers, content providers, handset makers, and (Internet Service Providers). The big winners? Consumers. As choices increase, prices come down and more Americans have access to the Net.”

From all indications, Google is taking this wireless endeavor quite seriously. Given the company’s track record, the Google leadership will play to win.