Google Cross-carrier MVNO -Google Fi- Announced
Google has announced that it will be offering Google Fi, a cross-carrier MVNO cell plan available only to unlocked Nexus 6 devices. The pricing scheme and cross-carrier network is a unique offering when compared to other popular MVNOs.
The cell service will be the first to offer carrier switching between Sprint and T-Mobile. They will also offer calling over WiFi, similar to services offered by T-Mobile. This would give Fi users an advantage over other MVNOs in that their device would automatically find and switch to use the best available connection across Sprint, T-Mobile, and WiFi. If this new switching technology works in practice is yet to be seen, but it is certainly a unique offering.
Pricing is also unique, offering pay-what-you-use pricing for a flat $10/GB. If you end up only using 100MB at the end of a cycle you will be reimbursed the $9. Unfortunately the data pricing is on top of a $20 base rate for unlimited call and text. So, in practice you are looking at at least $240 a year, plus taxes and fees, before data even enters the equation.
Disruptive or not?
When looking at comparable plans from Republic, Tracfone, Straighttalk and others, Google is hardly making a disruptive entry into the MVNO market. They do have brand advantage over their competition, however, and if their call quality through carrier switching and wifi pans out to be a significant improvement over competing networks, then disruption could take place.
Buy now, or wait?
Sign-up is by invitation only, and invitation requests are being accepted now at https://fi.google.com/about/. However, should you receive an invite, you must buy or bring your own Nexus 6 device. Unlocked Nexus 6 devices are currently available through Amazon, Google Play store and elsewhere, so if you want to adopt early you could buy now and use an alternative service, then switch when your invite arrives.
Google Fi Future?
With other projects such as Project Loon in the works, a balloon-based internet service intended for remote-areas, as well as their recent funding of SpaceX satelite internet projects, it is clear that Google intends to be a major player in the future of wireless. Whether Fi is just a standalone project, or if Google is preparing a subscriber base to leverage for future offerings based on these new technologies remains to be seen.