Prone to distraction and sudden abandonment of its dalliances into the telecom marketplace, Google is actually pushing more chips into its MVNO-based mobile service.
This week, it announced a new name for the erstwhile Project Fi, now calling it “Google Fi.” The service will now work with many more devices to, with most iPhones and Androids compatible with the service.
This is, of course, unwelcome news to the top three U.S. cable companies. Comcast and Charter Communications have, in partnership, launched mobile services that combine the strengths of their respective public WiFi networks with a mobile virtual network operator agreement with Verizon. (Such an MVNO deal allows the cable companies to lease access to Verizon’s wireless LTE network.)
Altice USA, meanwhile, will launch a mobile service next year based on an MVNO agreement with Sprint.
As for Google Fi, it launched three years ago, offering customers MVNO access to either T-Mobile or Sprint. It later added regional wireless network operator U.S. Cellular to the choices.
The multiple options have been a selling point, with the undisclosed number of Google Fi customers able to choose the network that works best for them, depending on where they were located at any given time.
Users, however, were limited in terms of phone choices, with only models like the Pixel 3, the Moto G6 and the LG V35 including the chips needed to toggle between the multiple LTE networks.
With the new BYOD expansion, iPhone and Android-equipped Google Fi users will largely be confined to T-Mobile’s network, given their phones inability to toggle between MVNO providers.
Google’s sudden doubling down on its MVNO service somewhat surprised the tech press, which has seen the Silicon Valley giant in recent years abandon such telecom-centric efforts as wireline broadband play Google Fiber.
However, there are still plenty of reasons why Google Fi competes well with Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile.
Start with price. Users can pay $20 a month for one line that includes unlimited talk and text, and $10 a month for every 1 GB of data use, up to a maximum of $60 a month. For those who can confine their data use to WiFi, that’s a $30 a month wireless plan. And $80 a month will provide unlimited talk, text and data usage.
And there are other perks. For example, users who have a secondary device like a tablet can enable data usage for that device, with no extra line charge, simply by adding a SIM card.