Could Google be about to launch its very own voice-over-IP service? A recently placed job ad by the search giant seems to suggest Google's going down the Internet telephony route.
The search firm has placed an advert in its vacancies section asking for a strategic negotiator, to help with the "development of a global backbone network".
Among the requirements for the job are "Negotiation and purchasing of IP transit services... negotiation of partnerships with Internet exchanges, regional peering providers, and paid peering arrangements with major carriers" and "Identification, selection, and negotiation of dark fibre contracts both in metropolitan areas and over long distances as part of development of a global backbone network; contracts and negotiation for managed metropolitan services and long haul wavelength services".
While Google declined to comment on the significance of its situations vacant, the vacancy has led to speculation that Google is cueing up an entrance into providing a free VoIP service.
Google has already made its presence felt outside of its traditional Internet search market. The company recently launched a toolbar and has a free e-mail service in testing, while speculation is rife that an IM client and browser are on their way too.
Ovum chief analyst Julian Hewett believes that Internet telephony could be another such lucrative extension to the Google business model.
"'This would be an obvious development for the world's leading search engine. Millions have downloaded the 'Google toolbar', so why not a VoIP client too? The appeal for Google is obvious: search for something, then 'click here' if you'd like to speak to the company that's selling what you're looking for. Google then collects a fee from the 'sponsor' for each voice connection. Voice calls with very little cost and funded by advertising," he said in a research note.
A recent report by fellow analyst house Analysys sees the number of VoIP users booming in coming years.
According to the report, 12 million homes will use Internet telephony in the US by 2008, with 800,000 small businesses signing up and big businesses racking up 18 million VoIP-connected lines between them.