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Google unveils Project Fi mobile service to extend its reach
[SAN FRANCISCO] Google Inc is taking a plunge into the US$189 billion market for wireless service, creating fresh competition for Verizon and AT&T and stepping up efforts to boost sales and lure users to its Android mobile-phone software.
The new service is called Project Fi, and it's being offered through the Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc wireless networks. Google will charge US$20 a month for basic features such as talk and text, and US$10 per gigabyte for data.
Google is looking for ways to expand its influence in the mobile industry as more people access the Web via handsets rather than bigger computers. Selling wireless service could help the company spur adoption of Android by consumers and device makers and widen its appeal to advertisers.
"Google would like to see what it can do to get greater Internet adoption," said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics LLC. Entering the wireless-service market gives Google "a large technology showpiece, a playground to test out new applications and show what's possible." Project Fi users will get credit for unused gigabytes. The service will be available in nearly all metropolitan areas, according to Google's coverage map.
The technology works through wireless carrier networks or through Wi-Fi and can switch between them during a call as needed. The service will begin on an invitation-only basis. Customers can request an invitation through Google's website.
"Project Fi enables us to work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what's possible," the company said in a blog post. "By designing across hardware, software and connectivity, we can more fully explore new ways for people to connect and communicate."
The new service will be available on the Nexus 6, the company said. The phone was developed with Lenovo Group Ltd's Motorola Mobility Holdings, which was owned by Google until last year. The Nexus 6 is the first smartphone that supports the hardware and software to work with the new offering.
"We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it's Wi-Fi or one of our two partner" networks, Google said.
Sprint is "proud to enable Google's entry into the wireless industry as a service provider," the carrier said in a statement.
Google previously invested in a high-speed Internet and TV service called Google Fiber in various US cities, competing with companies such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc.
The company can use the new service to get additional data on users, such as more extensive location and billing information, said JP Gownder, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
"They're going to get a more complete picture of what it is that these users are doing," Mr Gownder said. "So, really, the data element is a very important element here."