Google has finally unveiled its long-awaited phone service Project Fi with the intention of challenging existing giants of the industry such as Verizon and AT&T. With telecommunications such a diverse and growing industry nowadays, it was inevitable that one of the behemoth technology companies would view it as a ripe for the picking. Google was perhaps an obvious candidate for this decision, considering its expertise in software development allied to hardware experience.
Challenges Big Four carriers
The new Project Fi technology produced by Google attempts to combine several communication tools and multiple ways of making telephone calls. Thus, standard telephony, online calls similar to those offered by the existing Skype platform, and other services will be amalgamated into a singular phone service and number.
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It is an interesting time for Google. The corporation retains its core search engine business which is hugely successful, and also has fingers in many other significant pies. But Google is also going through something of an experimental phase, as if it is grasping for firm ground in what is an increasingly competitive technology niche.
Thus, Google Glass has come and gone without creating much of a commercial impression, while this new Project Fi telephony service is also considered very much experimental. With Google only initially making it available for people utilizing the Nexus 6 smartphone, the reach of Project Fi will certainly not being particularly broad for the time being. The Nexus 6 is a very creditable smartphone, but it is certainly not a mass-market device in the manner of the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy range.
What Google is attempting to achieve with this new technology is to reimagine the whole notion of a phone call. This may seem like a rather nebulous concept to the average person, but all kinds of services have been provided by technology in recent years that seemed gratuitous or excessive at the time they were first envisaged. One wouldn’t need to go back that far in time to encounter an era in which the idea of carrying a phone around at all times seemed ludicrous; now, of course, we are all veritably glued to our smartphones on a frequent basis.
Google Project Fi versus the big four
But it’s one thing to offer new services, and quite another to achieve genuine success in an extremely competitive industrial niche. So how will Google’s new Project Fi stack up against the heavyweights of telephony? Well, it is certainly worth noting that Google has had significant impact on other industries due to its power and prominence. For example, the release of Google Fiber forced Comcast and AT&T to significantly improve their broadband and cable offerings.
And one shouldn’t doubt the deep pockets that Google possesses, or for that matter the credibility of the Google branding. Everyone reading this article almost certainly used a Google product today, and you’ll almost certainly use a Google product again tomorrow. I know I did and will.
However, Google has struck a note of caution with regard to this project at least for the time being. Nick Fox, Google’s vice president of communications products, has confirmed the impression that this is to be considered an experimental service. Fox stated that the corporation intends to offer customers a superior way to pay for their wireless services, considering that the existing system is convoluted, bloated, inefficient and uneconomical.
With the big four wireless carriers or offering a multitude of plan choices, Google intends to deliver a simple pricing plan which will be transparent for consumers and subscribers. This will involve paying a single amount for a limited talk and text time, with $10 levied for every additional 1 GB of data utilised.
Project Fi price breakdown
The $30 per month figure which Google has quoted for this significantly undercuts all of the existing big four carriers. Each of these four companies offers the same amount of talk, text, and 4G LTE data for either $45 or $50. If this isn’t an attractive enough prospect in itself, Google has also promised to credit user accounts at the end of each month for any data that they have not used. This is a generous approach and one not offered by any of the existing big four carriers.
Already AT&T and T-Mobile have responded to this, and are now rolling out unused data plans to go live next month. In this respect, Google is already having a positive effect on the industry, as the dominant players are being forced to look again and offer more to customers.
It is also worth noting that Project Fi performs extremely well on lower data tiers. With Google offering customers plans for 1GB, 2GB, and 3GB of data at industry-leading prices, it seems certain that Project Fi has the potentially to significantly impact the industry. By contrast, AT&T and T-Mobile do not have plans for 2GB, and Sprint doesn’t have a 3GB plan, so Google is already offering consumers choice that simply didn’t exist in the marketplace before.
Sprint’s own 2GB plan is priced at $50; $10 more than the $40 Project Fi charges. Verizon’s 2GB plan is even more expensive at $60. It should be evident from these figures that Google has placed its new experimental product at an extremely competitive price point.
However, there is less difference when higher tiers are examined. Project Fi’s $10 for each GB becomes less viable compared to the existing big four carriers at higher tier rates. When one looks at 8 GB of data, the new Google project is at the same pricing level as Verizon, effectively $100. Spring is cheaper than Project Fi at this level with an $85 plan. At 10GB, both Verizon and AT&T offer plans that are $5 cheaper than Project Fi’s own $120. It is also notable that both Sprint and T-Mobile have unlimited data plans.
Google’s Project Fi certainly has the potential to be a disruptive technology in the telephony marketplace. And Google has clearly launched it with the smaller consumer in mind. But frequent users of Internet-based telephony services will be advised to shop around before committing to this new upstart to the marketplace.