Not content with trying to prove the FTTH case with Google Fiber, Google revealed yesterday on its corporate blog that the company is taking on the other pillar of consumer bandwidth with the launch of Fi. They're not building a new wireless carrier along with all the infrastructure that goes with it, but they are planning to showcase a few new ideas aimed at shaking up the market.
First off, they're planning to use both the Sprint and T-Mobile networks, switching between data networks depending on which is faster in any given location. Second, they're taking WiFi usage to new levels, with more than a million free, verified hotspots to move in and out of for both voice and data. And amusingly, they're offering a flat rate data plan of $10 per gigabyte of cellular data. I say amusingly because if it were actually 'flat' then by definition it wouldn't be per gigabyte now would it? But I digress.
On the one hand, this is a limited MVNO trial balloon by Google. On the other hand, one can think of it as a way for the #3 and #4 carriers to negate the scale advantage Verizon and AT&T have without going through the trouble of merging. If Google can blend their mobile networks together while leveraging the power of the search giant's massive global fiber/data network infrastructure to move the bits around, and they can sell consumers on the idea, then they could insert themselves further into the consumer/telco relationship.
Over at Google Fiber, one thing they've taken advantage of is the complicated (i.e. often adversarial) relationship that consumers and local governments often have with incumbent and MSO last mile providers. I'm not sure the dynamic is the same in the wireless space, even if the some of the names are the same. But if Fi catches on, what's to stop Apple following the same path, or Comcast for that matter.