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Google Fi: how might it fare in Australia?

Australia already has a strong MVNO market, dominated by Amaysim with challengers like Boost nipping at its heels, but is Project Fi the great MVNO shark?

It was rumoured for some time that Google would introduce its own MVNO to the US market, and it finally happened this past week with Google’s Project Fi finally announced officially

Project Fi only works with Google’s own Nexus 6 handset, made by Motorola Mobility, when paired with a special SIM you’ll be sent if you ‘request an invite’, live in the appropriate service areas in the US and are accepted.

It also only works with Sprint and T-Mobile’s LTE networks in the US, but also works with more than 1 million open and free hotspots that Google has tested and verified as not just fast but reliable, and will then encrypt your connect once it is made.

The handover between LTE and Wi-Fi is promised to be seamless, for the best possible coverage.

The way you pay is slightly different. For US $20 per month, Google says ‘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.’

However, Google is promising to do data rollover by crediting you the unused portion of the data you’ve purchased.

Google says: ‘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.’

Full Project Fi details incliuding pricing can be found here.

At current exchange rates, US $20 is $25.56, to which you’d have to add 10% GST. Then there’s data costs you have to add on.

When you have companies such as Amaysim offering 5GB for $44.95 and Boost offering 3GB per month plus 1GB for use each Sunday for $40, and both offering unlimited Australian landline and mobile calls, you alraedy have very compelling offers than only recently improved and will do so again in the future - especially in the face of any Project Fi threat. 

Sure, these plans don't give you coverage in 120 countries as with Project Fi, nor do you get to connect to 1 million hotspots for voice and data coverage with encryption, but you get a lot more data for your money.

There are also prepaid plans in Australia that already offer calls to other countries, and while the cost of global roaming has fallen dramatically, Project Fi's carrot is free roaming to 120+ countries.

However, data is what’s most important to a mobile user these days, far more than voice is today, and unless Project Fi launches in Australia with much cheaper data prices, or a competitive amount of data at similar prices to what’s already available in Australia, Project Fi will need to go a lot further in its live beta process before it will be a real threat to local MVNOs in Australia, the US or elsewhere.

That said, Google’s offer is nevertheless compelling, and it is but 'Round One' from Google. 

Future versions of Project Fi are certainly to become Project Hi-Fi in their global coverage, data inclusions and handset compatibility, and every telco and MVNO globally, let alone in Australia, has been put on notice that Project Fi is finally off the ground.

Project Fi flies. When it lands on your doorstep is hard to say, but with Google not just moving at the speed of the Internet, but actively accelerating it, Project Fi might fly locally in more places globally sooner than we think.

Here’s Google’s Project Fi promotional video:

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.