Project Fi changes name to Google Fi, but is it growing?

Google is changing the name of their MVNO wireless service from Project Fi to Google Fi. What does this mean to Google...and to the wireless marketplace?

google fi

Google has been busy entering all three segments of the wireless industry with their Android OS, Pixel smartphones and Project Fi services. Three months ago, I wrote a column discussing Google's activity in the wireless space. Some of their effort is very successful. Others, not so much. So, let’s take an updated look at Google in wireless and what to expect from them going forward.

We all know that Android is a hit. It is one of the big two wireless operating systems in the market today. Apple iOS is the other. In fact, Android is the OS that is behind most of the smartphones in the market today like Samsung Galaxy.

If Android is very successful, why do Pixel and Project Fi struggle?

Seeing their success with Android, Google tried to get lightning to strike twice, or three times. They have tried with smartphone handsets for years starting with Nexus and now with Pixel. Three years ago, they entered the services space as an MVNO called Project Fi, reselling T-Mobile and Sprint. Today they also resell US Cellular.

Today, there is still no sign of the same level of success in the services and smartphone space as they have with Android, however there is some news. They decided to rename the service from Project Fi to Google Fi. Not sure how much difference this will make, but this is the kind of name they should have chosen originally. So, I think this is the right direction.

Google Fi lets users buy new smartphones or bring their own

The smartphones sold by Google Fi automatically finds the strongest signal of the multiple carriers they resell. That’s the good part. It lets users get the best signal strength from these smaller carriers.

Google Fi also said they will let users bring their own smartphones, however these will not be able to automatically switch between the carriers they use. So, the smartphone you bring, limits you to a particular network.

If that’s the case, it would reduce the value of the Google Fi service. If that’s the case, it would make more sense to buy a smartphone from Google Fi to let you bounce back and forth depending on the strongest signal. But there is a cost to buying a new phone. So, the choice us up to the customer.

Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile, Altice Mobile also in MVNO space

Google Fi is an MVNO and this is a segment which is catching fire in the last year or so. Let’s take a look at other services in the market today.

Comcast Xfinity Mobile got into the wireless business as an MVNO, reselling Verizon Wireless about a year and a half ago. They are winning market share in their region.

Charter Spectrum Mobile just started a few months ago. They also resell Verizon Wireless. I expect they could have the same impact in their region.

Next year Altice Mobile will begin selling wireless service as an MVNO reselling Sprint.

Plus, every carrier offers their own versions like Cricket Wireless, AT&T Prepaid, Verizon Prepaid and countless others.

In addition to these, there are countless smaller companies like TracFone, StraightTalk, Consumer Cellular and many others.

MVNO is growing segment in wireless industry

So, as you can see, the MVNO marketplace is really revving up with these non-wireless competitors. The big four carriers are basically the only choice for wireless networks in the United States for nearly every customer. So, nearly every MVNO competitor resells one or more of them.

I see the MVNO resale marketplace continuing to explode with growth. This means there will be more competitors. That’s always good for the wireless marketplace. Since all these resellers use one of the big four wireless carriers, it doesn’t hurt the wireless industry. Think about it like resale customers and usage are just moved from the retail side to the wholesale side of the house.

With all this said, we still don’t know whether Google Fi is successful in the services side of the wireless industry. What we do know is they are sticking with it and continuing to try. I’ve got to take my hat off to their efforts. This sounds a lot like their efforts on the smartphone side of the house with Pixel.

So, the Google Android OS is still their most successful wireless offering. As for Google Fi and Pixel, who knows. Not much to talk about yet or they’d be talking about it right? At least they are not giving up.

And with the MVNO marketplace continuing to grow, who knows, maybe they could end up being successful in that space as well someday like Xfinity Mobile after their first year and a half. Will keep you posted.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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