This morning Global IP Solutions announced that it has entered into a $68 million buyout agreement with Google. Add that to Google's February, 2010 announcement that it was undertaking an "experiment" to build 1-Gbps FTTH networks, and it's clear that Google has plans to become a serious telecom infrastructure player.
In the last two years, Google has made several forays in the voice market. After buying VoIP startup GrandCentral in 2008, Google went on to buy the peer-to-peer softphone Gizmo5. Google did nothing with these investments; suspending new customer signups for both services at the end of 2009, with the explanation that Google was conducting extended beta tests before "re-launching" the services.
Google has undoubtedly studied the history of Internet companies in VoIP; and AOL's, eBay's, and Yahoo's VoIP missteps paint an uninspiring picture, as Tom Keating noted last year.
There's a fundamental lesson: operating a telephone company has a very different imperative than operating an Internet company: subscribers have to get a dial tone when they pick up the phone - 100% of the time.
Meeting that imperative is what legacy telephone carriers are good at: performing a well-understood and clearly defined operation in real-time, with near-absolute reliability. How hard it is to achieve these goals simultaneously can be measured by how little Internet software pioneers Yahoo, AOL and eBay advanced the VoIP technology that they purchased.
Google certainly has the financial resources for building infrastructure and operations with "five nines" reliability. And Google has one advantage over legacy telecoms. It can start on Day One with the best technology - Google doesn't have to figure out how to upgrade millions of miles of copper wire.It will be interesting to watch. Any bets?