BARCELONA/MOUNTAIN VIEW: Google is to dip its toe into mobile telecoms services, as it announces its intention to become a mobile virtual network operator in the US.

Unveiling the plan at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sundar Pichai, svp/products, compared the move to Google's development of Android, TechCrunch reported.

"The core of Android and everything we do is to take an ecosystem approach and [a network would have] the same attributes," he said.

"We have always tried to push the boundary with the innovations in hardware and software," he continued. "We want to experiment along those lines."

Consequently he did not envisage Google becoming a major player in this market. "We don't intend to be a network operator at scale," he explained.

The idea was rather "to drive a set of innovations that we think the ecosystem should allow and, hopefully, we will gain traction.

"We will do it at a small enough scale and hopefully people see what we are doing and carrier partners, if they think ideas are good, can adopt them."

An example the internet giant's thinking, he disclosed, is "how WiFi and cell networks work together and how to make that seamless".

At the more outré end of Google's projects, Pichai said that solar-powered gliders capable of providing mobile signals to remote areas were due to begin flying within a few months.

These are in addition to plans to introduce balloons that can stay airborne for up to six months and provide 4G connectivity in areas where it is difficult to build masts.

"These are our access efforts to provide a backbone" to the world, he said: "Cell towers in the sky." 

But it is not neglecting more traditional routes, as Pichai also said Google was going to step up its work building fibre broadband networks in parts of Africa.

Data sourced from Finanical Times, TechCrunch; additional content by Warc staff