Google, the nearly $13.5 billion search engine major, is believed to be a fortnight away from the worldwide launch of its much-awaited Google Phone (Gphone) and has started talks with service providers in India for an exclusive launch on one of their networks.
Talks are believed to be taking place with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar, respectively India's first and third largest mobile telephony operators, and state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam.
Sources close to the development said a simultaneous launch across the US and Europe is expected, and announcements would be sent to media firms in India and other parts of the world. US regulatory approval, which is expected soon, is the only hurdle that Google is waiting to cross, they added. Google plans to invest $7-8 billion for its global telephony foray.
In India, it is also believed to be in talks with Indian providers to offer data and content and platforms including Instant Messaging (IM) and Search functions. However, these could not be confirmed.
A Google spokesperson said, "We don't comment on market rumour or speculation. However, Google is committed to providing users with access to the world's information, and mobile becomes more important to those efforts every day. We're collaborating with partners worldwide to bring Google search and applications to mobile users everywhere. However, we have nothing to announce at this time."
Reports of the Internet major getting into handset manufacturing as an answer to Apple's iPhone has been doing rounds in cyberspace and international media for some time. These reports suggest that Google has developed a prototype that will hit the markets in a year's time. The US-based company has neither confirmed nor denied these reports. The Wall Street Journal too had reported that Google had invested "hundreds of millions of dollars" in the project and was involved in discussions with US-based T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
Globally, Google is likely to participate in the upcoming auction for 700 MHz spectrum for which it is prepared to spend up to $4.6 billion. The firm is also introducing ads to YouTube videos which could be replicated on mobile phones. Ironically, Google recently partnered Apple to produce services such as e-mail and maps for its iPhone handset. And Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said recently that more Google services for the iPhone would be rolled out.