Google Inc. ’s GOOG, +1.04% upcoming wireless service would aim to end subscribers’ reliance on a single carrier, instead giving them the ability to pick the best signal from a variety of sources, people familiar with the plan said.
The service would feature new technology that would hunt through cellular connections provided by Sprint Corp. S, -0.70% and T-Mobile US Inc. TMUS, -1.11% and Wi-Fi hotspots, picking whichever offers the best signal to route calls, texts and data, the people said.
The offering could be rolled out in the first half of this year and would likely be available nationwide, although previously scheduled launches — including one in October 2014 — have been delayed, so the timing could slip again, some of these people said.
The move challenges the wireless industry’s prevailing model in which service is supplied via exclusive agreements with individual carriers like Verizon Communications Inc. VZ, -1.36% , AT&T Inc. T, -1.24% , Sprint and T-Mobile. While the approach has helped carriers amass the steady income needed to support massive investments in their networks, critics say it leads to higher prices and sometimes worse service.
The effort faces substantial challenges, including handling burdensome new customer relations issues, and there is no guarantee it will catch on with subscribers. Still, Google’s entry into the wireless market would bring unwelcome uncertainty to carriers already dealing with an intensifying price war.