Many say Google will bid to lose in the upcoming 700 MHz auctions and many more are equivocating. The idea is Google's entry alone will induce enough openness, and besides they couldn't afford to become an operator. This shows a total lack of understanding!
Google is run by idealists who want to change the world and have the money to undertake grand projects.
They are already seeking to index, and make available, all the world's information. As part of this vision they are scanning all existing books and fighting the legal battles this implies. When their own video repository failed to gain traction, they bought YouTube for $1.65B, and took on their legal hassles. Most recently their Palimpsest project is going to host enormous scientific databases for free. In short Google is not afraid to spend money or take large risks, including legal risks, to accomplish something they believe in.
Critical for Google's vision, and for their business, is open Internet access. Fixed access is relatively open today, but mobile is a big problem. So Google won't seek a little opening on the part of some US operators. Google needs open mobile access, i.e. dumb pipes, which means the total destruction of existing mobile operator business models.
They've already started from the edge with the Open Handset Alliance and the Android open-source mobile handset stack. Google's made a major investment here, not to compete for revenue on handset software or to control applications on edge devices, but to tip the balance from operators to the edge. First and foremost, Android is an open platform to encourage innovation. It's also free. Google doesn't need or expect a direct return on this investment.
The 700 MHz auctions are just the next step. Again, look for something unconventional. Google doesn't need or want to become a mobile operator. They want to create an industry where mobile dumb pipes are widely available.
Assuming Google wins, what might they do?
This is speculation on my part, but a good plan might be two fold.
First pick the latest mass market technology for mobile broadband access, probably mobile WiMAX, and set up a program to foster numerous independent wireless ISPs (WISPs) rolling out services on Google's frequencies. In the 1990s, the US had thousands of ISPs providing dial up access over traditional phone lines. The goal here would be to duplicate that entrepreneurial flurry for both fixed and mobile wireless access.
You may argue fixed is OK as services are local, but for mobile you really need regional and national coverage. Yes, but Google themselves could offer WISPs the opportunity to participate in a federation for national roaming, perhaps using Google Checkout for payments.
Second, formalize a set of rules for smart-radios based on the work they've been doing for open access to TV White Space. Throw open their spectrum to anyone who's willing to use appropriate smart radio technology, thus fostering long term innovation. Open access in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands has certainly fostered innovation. Google could achieve something similar.
These two steps, a mass market technology like WiMAX for rapid deployment, and open access for innovation, yield the maximum long term benefit for this spectrum and increase the likelihood that other countries will follow the US lead (as the world has done for 2.4 GHz and WiFi).