U.S. gets Google, we get Ottawa

So the worst-kept secret in the mobile-phone industry is finally out: Google has confirmed that it plans to bid for new spectrum in the 700-Mhz auction that is to be held early next year. One of the requirements of the spectrum auction is that whoever wins must allow users to download whatever applications they want to their mobile devices, which would fit with Google’s Open Handset vision. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said:

“Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.”

Meanwhile, Canada is planning a spectrum auction of its own, and also hoping to increase the amount of competition in the mobile sector — which is currently held hostage by an oligopoly consisting of Bell, Telus and Rogers. Canada being what it is, of course, we don’t have a Google bidding for spectrum and promising competition, we have the government setting aside spectrum and blocking Bell, Telus and Rogers from bidding on it.

The hoped-for upshot of both moves is more competition, and as a result more features and lower prices (Om Malik doesn’t think Google is in it to win it). Will that be the actual outcome, or will it just mean higher handset prices and more attempts to lock customers into long-term contracts? Stay tuned.

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