Google’s MVNO is here to stay

After launching the MVNO service in 2015, Project Fi has trundled along without any real fanfare, but a rebrand of the service suggests it might get a bit more attention over the coming months.

It has become somewhat of a rite of passage for Google, but dropping the ‘Project’ part of the name is a sign the service or product has graduated out of the labs. Loon had the ‘Project’ label dropped a couple of months back, and now it’s starting to look like a genuine business, so perhaps this snippet of news is something we should pay attention to. The MVNO is perhaps being given more official status on the Google family tree. Project Fi has been rebranded to Google Fi.

“Starting today, Project Fi is available on more phones: our plan now works with the majority of Android devices and iPhones,” said Simon Arscott, Director of Project Fi at Google. “And since we’re officially expanding our device support, we’re making our name more official, too: we’re now Google Fi.”

We doubt this service will be able to offer any material competition to the MNOs of the US, though it will certainly be a nuisance. Google’s previous ventures into the world of connectivity have not been fruitful, Google Fiber was hardly a roaring success, though this is a company which likes to back ideas with potential. And it certainly isn’t scared about pumping cash into concepts some would easily dismiss. Just looks at Maps or Loon, how many companies would have stuck with these ideas for so long as they swallow millions. Maps has now developed into a money making machine, while we love the potential of Loon.

In Google Fi, the team has the opportunity to do something brilliant again.

The interesting aspect of Google Fi is its affordability, simplicity and the fact it genuinely seems user centric. In researching this article, your correspondent went on the FAQs, played around with the various products and talked to a customer service agent in the instant chat function. The website is simple and easy to use. It seems genuinely user centric, much in the same way GiffGaff is in the UK. On the product side, these are tariffs which are designed to be simple.

In the UK, GiffGaff allows you to choose a data bundle, which can be altered at the end of every month dependent on your usage. Even when you use all your data, there are no penalty fees which some will dread, you are just prompted to renew your bundle a couple of days early. With Google Fi, the process is slightly different, but just as simple. You pay $20 for unlimited SMS and voice, and then $10 for every GB of data you use, with the bill capped at $60. Yes, it could be cheaper, but don’t forget this is the US where tariffs are incredibly expensive, however like GiffGaff it is simple and flexible, just what today’s consumer is demanding.

Today’s announcement not only rebrands the service to make it official and here to stay, but also expands the number of devices which it is compatible on. The service is now available on ‘most Android devices’, not just the ones which Google sells, but also the iPhone.

MVNOs are never going to take over the US, that is not the way the industry is structured, but with a well-known (and mostly liked) brand and adventurous markets with big budgets, it could certainly make an interesting business.