If Google is to partner with an operator it could choose Sprint, some analysts suggested. The two have already agreed to partner on WiMax services.
Partnering with Google could also be an opportunity for an experienced operator not yet present in the U.S. to enter that market, suggested Dawson. Possible candidates include Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom with networks in France, Poland, Spain, and the U.K., or Japan's NTT DoCoMo.
The US is not the only country with plans to auction off analog television spectrum for new uses: The U.K. began withdrawing analog TV service this month, and other European Union countries are set to follow suit.
But the likelihood of this opening the way for a new pan-European service to rival GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) is remote: each country has different licensing rules for the television spectrum, and the frequencies used are not always the same from country to country.
"I can't see all these auctions collectively creating a new single market," said McClune.