An early take on Google’s Fi service- opportunities and challenges for the search giant.

Google’s Fi wireless service- Opportunities and Challenges

As expected, Google announced its wireless service, Project Fi on the 22nd of April. Details about the program as just filtering in but this is a high level take on what it means to the mobile operator ecosystem/model and implications for handset and wireless device makers. This is a pretty exciting development that could have a long term impact on how we purchase, pay and manage our cellular devices.

Google fi

During the Mobile World Congress in March, Google SVP, Sundar Pichai talked about Google getting into the business without providing much details. Today, Google unveiled the service and described how it would work. Here is the short and sweet of it. You can read the full details on the well documented FAQs page on the Google Fi website.

  • Google is launching the service with the partnership of T-Mobile and Sprint in the operator space, Qualcomm in the chipset space and other undisclosed partners.
  • Google is promising technology that will automatically switch between Wi-Fi and cellular LTE and within cellular- T-Mobile and Sprint based on coverage in the specific location.
  • Google Fi service will cost $20 for voice and SMS package and $10 for every 1 GB of data. A smart spin on this plan is that Google will refund users on unused data. This makes it a good package for folks who have varying data use month over month.
  • There is no family plan so to speak of right now.
  • To begin with, the service will only work on Nexus 6 which costs $650. It is possible and likely that more devices will support this in the future.
  • SMS to 120 countries is included in the Fi Basics plan. When in one of those 120 countries, no new data plan is required and the existing data plan (1 GB for $10) is sufficient. This makes it a truly global service.

Implications

The Fi service will get the other big elephant in the room, Apple, thinking. Apple could conceivably do an Apple Wireless service that aggregates all 4 carriers and work directly with customers. Apple tends to take a wait and watch approach on things of this scope and that will apply here too. If the model works for Google and it attacts a reasonable number of new subscribers, Apple might follow. This might also interest other players to consider a similar option- Facebook could conceivably bundle its growing set of apps and services and offer a carrier agnostic MVNO service. Microsoft could attempt something similar too although they seem like a far shot for this.

How does this affect Android/Google’s relationship with the two other big carriers- AT&T and Verizon. In the past, Google has tried to break away from the carrier monopoly with out of contract unlocked phones. While the Nexus and Moto X/G/E program has been a success in many ways, Google has been unable to break the control carriers have on the system. Google Fi is a bolder approach at tackling the problem and it remains to be seen how it plays out. For the consumer, it would help if Google Fi succeeds. It will offer them an alternative to contract driven service tied to a single operator.

Challenges

Customers

If Google can convince customers that they are a viable cellular service provider at a reasonable price offering good quality of service and customer support, there is a lot of opportunity in the space for an alternative solution to traditional mobile operators.

Devices and Ecosystem

Google needs to build not one but a slew of devices either by itself or through the Nexus program to prove the concept to the wider audience. A $650 6 inch device might not be compelling for many. But a smaller, cheaper Nexus 5 like device at $300 could do wonders for Fi. The Android ecosystem will be a huge plus to drive adoption. In a sense, it could trigger a virtuous cycle of customers adopting Google Fi service and increasing Android adoption and vice versa.

Google will also need other Android OEMs to join the party sooner than later. This is complicated since the OEMs have a long term relationship with ATT and Verizon. But variety of devices is critical for Google Fi to attain mass adoption.

Services and Local

Google can now aggregate other services into Fi. Local services, maps services, local business coupons, Google Local reviews, Google Shopping Express and many more services can be brought into the Google Fi offering. Services could be discounted for folks signing up for ads. The opportunities for an MVNO with a lot of ancillary services are very many. The sky is the limit and knowing Google, they will explore a lot of it. This could be the true value addition on top of the cellular service that customers and Google could benefit from.

Conclusion

Google has taken a big bold step in becoming a MVNO and offering a compelling argument to customers to switch to its service. If it can back its vision with devices, partners, and service, there is a big opportunity for them to build a whole new business.

You can see the launch video below.

  Links and Resources

Official Project Fi website

Project Fi announcement

Project Fi FAQ


The Dawn of a new day for Drones

There has always been a vision for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in cities and fields and industrial areas across the world doing the things that are challenging for humans to do. Some of it has been happening for a while now like automated seed dispersers in fields, disaster response and more. Thanks to Jeff Bezos […]


Making the case for FitBit in the era of the Apple Watch

Last week, I wrote about how Pebble Time, a startup making smartwatches can survive and thrive in the era of the Apple Watch. In this post, I lay out my arguments for why FitBit can and hopefully will thrive in the same world. A little over two and a half years ago, I decided to […]


Making a case for Pebble in the era of Apple Watch

If you were not living on Mars for the past few months, Apple is building a smart watch which goes on sale on April 10. Like with any new Apple product, there has been intense speculation, scrutiny and tons of pre-analysis on the use, viability and potential of the product even before the first order […]


Payments 2.0: Facebook Payments, Apple Pay and Google Wallet – Sending money on Messaging platforms

Over the past few months, I have been trying to put together a series of articles on the changing face of payments. I have a bunch of drafts sitting in a place without a cohesive thread to wrap it with. This week’s announcement of Facebook launching its own Payments service acted as a catalyst for […]


The rumored Apple Car

Over the weekend, Wall Street Journal carried an article suggesting that Apple was working on a car codenamed “Titan“. Every major and minor news outlet decided to give the story its own spin speculating on why it could be the death of Detroit and that it could be a $50 billion opportunity. It is expected […]


Nadella’s Microsoft: His first year as CEO

Microsoft has been one of the most successful and profitable companies in the world for the past two decades. Over the past few years though, Microsoft’s supremacy has been brought to severe question by Google, Apple, Amazon and a bunch of nimbler competitors. From being one of the earliest leaders in the smartphone business, they […]


Technology Trends in 2015 – Part 1

Happy New Year to all my readers. 2014 was an eventful year from a technology standpoint in that a lot of pieces of the puzzle started coming together. Technology innovation continued its blistering pace and companies big and small have thrived in this growth era. 2015 will hopefully continue that streak and here is the first […]


Hands-on with the iPad Air 2(2014)

Just as the new iPhone launches every September, like clockwork every October, Apple releases its next iteration of the iPad. This year, Apple announced the 2014 models for the iPad – the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3. I had the opportunity to spend some time with the iPad Air 2 and here […]


A Tale of Two Cycles – Vicious and Virtuous

In the Bhagavat Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, You have a right to perform your prescribed action,but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities,and never be associated to not doing your duty. But is that really always true in the technology business? One […]