Google has dismissed as 'pure speculation' a report in The Times today that it is going into the free phone call business.
The speculation has been fuelled by a job ad on the Google web site seeking a 'strategic negotiator' to buy up 'dark' i.e. unused cable, in order to create a world-wide backbone network.
The job ad said that Google was looking for someone with experience in the 'identification, selection and negotiation of dark fiber contracts both in metropolitan areas and over long distances as part of development of a global backbone network'.
Following the dot com boom, thousand of miles of speculative cable was laid to carry the expected explosion in internet traffic. Whilst the boom happened, there are still huge amounts of this cable lying unused - or 'dark' - which can probably be picked up by Google at a keen price.
The question is ... for what? The speculation is that Google will create its own vast telecom network based on Voice over IP technology, possibly licensed from Skype, although Google engineers are perfectly able to develop their own version of the technology.
Riding the wave of domestic broadband growth, Skype is a free download which enables a user with a headset or microphone/speakers to make free phone calls to anywhere in the world for free via the Internet. Unlike early attempts at VoIP, Skype provides good quality sound and offers end to end enryption. What is also raising interest is SkypeOut, which allows customers to call landlines and mobiles. A Skype call to a UK landline currently is 1p as minute or 14p to a mobile.
The Times story today quotes one Julian Hewitt of Ovum Consulting as saying 'From a telecoms perspective there is a big appeal in the fact that Google is a search engine'. What this means is that Google could combine its search with telecoms to provide the world's biggest phone book. For example, you might use Froogle to track down a particular item of clothing in a store and phone up to check whether they have it in your size or colour. It is already possible to track down phone numbers on Google and it would be a small step for the company to formalise and simplify the number search.