Written by Tristan Rhee’17
Google made a big announcement last Wednesday, confirming its launch of a new wireless service Project Fi, which is unique because it will use available Wi-Fi hotspots and only switch to other carriers when Wi-Fi is not available. While Google is certainly not the first company to introduce such “Wi-Fi First” services, it is certainly the largest and could potentially carve into AT&T and Verizon’s hold on the industry.
Other companies such as Republic, FreedomPop, Scratch Wireless, and Cablevision are all pursuing these options but are seen as less reliable service providers. Now that Google has employed this Wi-Fi First approach to communications, there is finally a legitimate, reliable threat to contend with Verizon and AT&T.
Google has also partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile, two main competitors, to fill in the gaps and provide cellular service between Wi-Fi hotspots.
While the wireless industry and Wi-Fi First sector benefit from this announcement, everyday consumers benefit the most. Cell service can cost upwards of $140 a month, while an estimated $28 a month are wasted on unused data. Since Project Fi will primarily use free Wi-Fi hotspots, such a service could save consumers trillions of dollars over the next decade. These savings could encourage millions to abandon usual service providers and go with Google’s cheaper Project Fi.
The best part about Project Fi is the lack of change. Despite the hectic network-jumping your phone will do, people will use their phones as they always have.
It remains to be seen if Google can develop this idea into a reliable product that can turn the industry upside down.
Project Fi is in early access and signups can be found at fi.google.com/signup.