Google Opens Project Fi Floodgates

Expanding its attack on the traditional mobile services market, Google said it has exited the invitation-only stage for Project Fi, a service that starts at $20 per month that runs on WiFi and  falls back on Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s LTE networks when WiFi isn’t available.

Google unveiled Project Fi in April 2015, offering a service that bakes in basics such as voice, text, and WiFi tethering for $20 per month, plus $10 per gigabyte for cellular data in the U.S. and abroad.

“We launched Project Fi as an invitation-only Early Access program to make sure we could deliver the best quality of service to our first customers,” Simon Arscott, Project Fi’s project manager, announced Monday via this blog post. “Today, we’re excited to be exiting our invitation-only mode and opening up Project Fi so that people across the U.S. can now sign up for service without having to wait in-line for an invite.”

Google is broadening its mobile game as U.S. cable operators continue to mull their mobile strategies. Cablevision Systems, which is in the process of being acquired by Altice Group, offers a WiFi-only service called Freewheel; Comcast, meanwhile, is stil exploring how it might move forward with MVNO deals it has with Sprint and Verizon that could help to underpin a WiFi/cellular hybrid offering. 

Google has not announced how many people signed up for Project Fi during the ten-month invitation-only period, but to entice more to take the plunge, it’s offering the Android-powered Nexus 5X smartphone for $199 for the next month when customers buy and activate the device via Project Fi.

According to Google, more than 15% of Project Fi customers have used the service abroad, and that more than 50% of subs are connecting to public hotspots on a weekly basis using WiFi Assistant, a tool designed to automatically connect to the highest-quality connection  available.

During the first ten months of the service, Google also found that the average Project Fi customer uses 1.6 gigabytes of cellular data per month.