Google has finally broken into mobile communication with a product that can be a game changer in Internet provision in US and elsewhere. Project Fi made its entry on Wednesday in the US after a pilot study in one of the cities. The service that seems to outplay telcos in the state and beyond will see customers pay based on the data usage.
Google Fi is a wireless Internet Service product bundled together with voice and text that will provide services using Wi-Fi hotspot or available cellular network. Project Fi will connect its users to the fastest available network at the location of the customer with assured help of secured data through encryption via Google VPN service. The project could have the upper hand in the market since it will see individuals communicate through any network regardless of device in use.
The X-factor in the new project by Google is however the fresh approach on how you pay for wireless, manage your service, and get in touch when you need help. Here’s how it works: for $20 a month you get all the basics (talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in 120+ countries), and then it’s a flat $10 per GB for cellular data while in the U.S. and abroad. 1GB is $10/month, 2GB is $20/month, 3GB is $30/month, and so on. Since it’s hard to predict your data usage, you’ll get credit for the full value of your unused data. Let’s say you go with 3GB for $30 and only use 1.4GB one month. You’ll get $16 back, so you only pay for what you use.
The point of interest in Google’s Fi Internet Service is the decision to refund users for data not consumed. Recently, Safaricom had to deal with a public backlash due to stringent data plan conditions limiting subscribers the freedom to enjoy Internet use. The new data offering by Safaricom require that a subscriber consumes the purchased bundle before the expiry period, failure of which the data (money) will be lost, forever.
The rollout of Google Fi should send a strong message to Safaricom and others. Although in most parts of the world telcos don’t want to refund for unused data, or simply do away with data expiry altogether, the approach of Google should be expected to disrupt the market, especially if Google could intend to venture into markets outside USA with its Google Fi offering.
Even if Google Fi doesn’t set foot outside US, there are many telcos e.g. Equitel that could be keenly watching how Google will perform, profit wise, with Google Fi. Once the model proves profitable, we expect Safaricom competitors to borrow a leaf and launch mobile services requiring subscribers to pay for data, voice and text consumed. The current arrangement where we are forced to pay for products we were not able to consume is ridiculous, to say the least.
In the meantime, if someone like Safaricom has the best interest of customers at heart, they could at least copy the refund option that has been introduced by Google Fi, or simply allow users to consume their purchased data at their own rate. I do believe that if expiry date is done away with, the impact on bottom line won’t be significant.