Is Google Searching For VoIP?

UPDATED: A UK newspaper said the search giant is considering broadband telephony, but experts aren't so sure.

By Colin C. Haley | Posted Jan 24, 2005
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UPDATED: Google is reportedly readying a Voice over IP service for the United Kingdom, but some experts are skeptical that the search giant would move into telecommunications.

A story in London-based Times newspaper said the search giant is readying an Internet telephony offering that will rival British Telecom's.

An analyst from the research firm Ovum told the paper that VoIP could mesh nicely with Google's search services, allowing users to find local businesses and immediately dial from their desktops.

However, the media report contained no comment from the Mountain View, Calif., company. The story did speculate, though, that a job posting on Google's Web site could indicate a move into VoIP.

The ad seeks a "strategic negotiator" responsible for making deals for dark fiber, optical networks that are in place but not currently in use.

Not all industry watchers think the move is logical. Will Cheek, an analyst with Parks & Associates, told internetnews.com that a Google VoIP offering could be at a disadvantage against services from telecoms or cable operators.

"[Google doesn't] control the actual broadband connection to the home, so they don't have control of quality-of-service," Cheek said.

Those service providers also have the ability to bundle VoIP with other residential services, including high-speed Internet service and video.

Danny Sullivan, in his Search Engine Watch blog, said that "opening such a service would be a very tough sell to explain how offering Internet phone service is related to Google's mission of organizing the world's information."

"I believe Google has a team focused on VoIP," Jeff Pulver, VoIP advocate and organizer of the VON trade shows, said. "They seem to have a team focused on everything these days."

Google's ad could be explained as a move to negotiate for less expensive bandwidth, said Sullivan, whose site is owned by the same parent company as internetnews.com.

A Google spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the Times' story.

If Google were to offer VoIP in the United Kingdom, it would be battling more than British Telecom. Vonage today announced that its VoIP service was now available in the nation.

Vonage, which has been successful in the United States and Canada despite not owning the broadband pipe, is also looking at expanding into other international markets.

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