Google on Wednesday introduced to the whole world a new U.S. wireless service that switches between Wi-Fi and cellular networks to curb data use and helps its users to spend less money on the Internet.
“In today’s mobile world, fast and reliable connectivity is almost second nature. But even in places like the U.S., where mobile connections are nearly ubiquitous, there are still times when you turn to your phone for that split-second answer and don’t have fast enough speed,” the company states in its blog.
“Or you can’t get calls and texts because you left your phone in a taxi (or it got lost in a couch cushion for the day). As mobile devices continually improve how you connect to people and information, it’s important that wireless connectivity and communication keep pace and be fast everywhere, easy to use, and accessible to everyone.”
Google goes on: “That’s why today we’re introducing Project Fi, a program to explore this opportunity by introducing new ideas through a fast and easy wireless experience. Similar to our Nexus hardware program, Project Fi enables us to work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”
The company’s first step into wireless world will work only on the Nexus 6 phones and be hosted through Sprint Corp and T-Mobile’s networks, Google explained in a statement.
“The service, called Project Fi, will automatically switch between the two networks and more than 1 million open, free Wi-Fi spots, depending on which signal is strongest,” writes The Huffington Post.
Project Fi will cost $20 a month plus $10 per gigabyte of data used. Customers will get money back for unused data.
Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products, unveiled at a Barcelona conference back in March that the Internet searching giant was preparing to experiment with a mobile network, but that it did not intend to disrupt the wireless industry.
The service will be available on only one device and has limited carrier coverage, so it will not make Google a major wireless industry player, said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.
If successful, however, Google’s service could pressure wireless providers to further lower prices and better adapt to the rise of tablets and wearable devices, Blau added. Though some carriers, such as T-Mobile and AT&T Inc, allow unused data to roll over, most mobile plans require customers to pay for a set amount of data each month.
But Google first has to “test out features they think are going to differentiate themselves,” Blau said, such as being able to transition from network connectivity to Wi-Fi.
If Google is able to provide those features, “it’s very possible they could become a major wireless player in the future,” Blau said.
Phone numbers will live in the cloud so that consumers can talk and text on any connected tablet, Google said.
The company already has a strong presence in the mobile market through its Android operating system, which hosts some of the most popular apps, such as Gmail and Google Maps.