Google’s new cellphone service may include free international roaming

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Google’s proposed cell service just got a little more interesting. According to a recent Telegraph report, the search giant is in talks with Hutchinson Whampoa to offer international call, text, and data roaming to customers of its virtual network at no extra charge.

Hutchinson Whampoa, a Hong Kong-based wireless conglomerate with networks in Ireland, Italy, Sri Lanka, Macau, Sweden, Denmark, Vietnam, and Austria, has plans that dovetail with Google’s reported ones. The company already offers charge-free roaming for customers on its global Three network, and hopes to expand its footprint further by acquiring O2 from UK operator Telefonica.

Google wouldn’t be the only carrier to offer international roaming gratis. That honor also goes to T-Mobile and Illiad Group’s Free Mobile, both of which have deals in place with overseas network operators. Still, the largest US carriers, AT&T and Verizon, provide no such benefit.

Google’s intention to begin offering cellular service was officially revealed in March. Set to launch “in the coming months,” Google Product Chief Sundar Pichai described it as a “smaller scale” operation. Many interpret the move as an attempt, similar to Google Fiber’s in the home Internet sector, to pressure incumbent providers into improving service and infrastructure.

Rumblings suggest Google’s mobile phone plan will take the form of a virtualized network on top of service from Sprint and T-Mobile, much like Virgin Mobile or Tracfone Wireless. According to The Wall Street Journal, it’ll also make heavy use of Wi-Fi and initially be available only on the Nexus 6 in the U.S.

These rumors are surfacing at a time when European regulators are seeking to cut or eliminate roaming fees.  Member states of the European Commission recently hashed out terms that would see a push for lower fees into mid-2018.

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