Google makes Project Fi MVNO invite-free

Internet giant Google seems to be happy with its MVNO experiment, so much so that it is removing the need to apply for an invite and offering subsidized smartphones.

In a blog, Project Fi Product Manager Simon Arscott announced the invite-only phase had served its purpose of helping Google refine the service. “While Project Fi is still in its early stages, we’re excited to welcome our next wave of customers and look forward to growing and improving together,” he said, while announcing the special offer of a Nexus 5X for $199 for a month, which is almost half its current price, so long as you also sign up for Project Fi.

When it was launched in April of last year Project Fi was positioned as a new take on connectivity services by putting a premium on flexibility – especially the use of public wifi. To support this Google seems to have developed a public hotspot aggregation facility similar to the sort of thing offered by companies like Devicescape.

In his blog, Arscott reflected on the popularity of this feature. “We believe that using wifi should be seamless which is why we created Wi-Fi Assistant – a tool that automatically connects to high-quality hotspots and helps secure your connection. Over 50% of Project Fi customers are connecting to public hotspots using Wi-Fi Assistant on a weekly basis.”

Other highlights from the first 10 months of Project Fi included the claimed success of its roaming offering, which charges no premium for voice or data in over 120 countries. Only 15% of its customers had actually used the roaming facility, but that could also be a product of a general disinclination of Americans to travel abroad. Project Fi users consume 1.6GB of data (type not specified) per month and Google is claiming its data-only SIMs, launched in December, have been popular.

Google Fi remains a niche service, but it’s easy to imagine its appeal growing rapidly, especially with the power Google has to offer subsidized Nexus devices as an incentive. The underlying philosophy is to undermine the operator channel, but operators have learned to accept some change as inevitable and seem to have adopted an ‘if you can’t beat em join em’ approach to this, as they have done the broader OTT battle.

  • MVNOs North America

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