Google has filed a patent for handsets that could make various operators bid against one another for each call or data session initiated by the user.
The patent, which was filed in March 2007 but was only published by the US Patent Office last Thursday, would also let devices choose between normal phone standards such as GSM and CDMA, as well as rival technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and WiMax, for the best method of connection at the time.
The application was published the day after Google launched its first major play in the mobile industry, the open-source Android platform.
"Devices may operate on multiple networks, and may in certain circumstances seek out bids from telecommunication service providers," read the application's summary. "For example, a device such as a mobile telephone may have the capability to operate over multiple different networks, including a home network when in the home, to transition to a metropolitan network when outside the home but in a higher-density area (urban/suburban), and transition to a more traditional cellular network when outside such a higher-density area."
Google's application also described circumstances where the device may obtain "certain terms of service" from available operators so as to "to help provide the user with a level of service that best meets the user's needs (whether the need is based on cost, quality of service, bandwidth requirements, or some other criteria)".
"The proposal for a telecommunication session may be submitted by a portable communication device, or possibly, a central service that will negotiate with the telecommunication carriers on behalf of the portable device," the application continued.
The scenario described in Google's patent application stands in sharp contrast to the way the mobile industry currently works, where users are generally locked into contracts with operators through whom all their calls and data sessions are initiated. Devices are also frequently locked to specific operators.
ZDNet.co.uk contacted Google to inquire about its plans regarding the application, but only received Google's stock response to patent queries: "We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications."