If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Republic Wireless should be extremely flattered by the new Project Fi wireless service unveiled Wednesday by Internet giant Google.
Unfortunately for Raleigh-based Republic, however, Google’s latest endeavor also marks the emergence of what could become a major new competitor in the low-cost wireless market.
Google’s Project Fi, announced Wednesday, has definitely taken a few pages from Republic’s playbook.
The service, which Google is offering in conjunction with Sprint and T-Mobile, is a hybrid service that uses both Wi-Fi and wireless, switching from one to the other as needed – just like Republic.
Project Fi also will credit customers for unused data accessed over cellular networks, just like the new pricing plan that Republic announced this week.
Even one of Google’s partners, Sprint, also provides cellular coverage to Republic.
“A Raleigh company, not a Silicon Valley company, has led the way,” said Cherie Gary, a spokeswoman for Republic. Republic’s corporate parent, Bandwidth, also is based in Raleigh and employs nearly 500 workers.
Gary also stressed that Republic’s service is established, whereas Google says its “project” is a way “to explore this opportunity,” according to the company’s official blog. Republic officially launched its wireless service in December 2010.
Google’s blog post announcing the service didn’t specify when it will begin. Those who are interested must request an “invite” at fi.google.com.
“After you request an invite, we'll check to make sure we have service in your zip code,” Google states on the website. “If we do, stay tuned – you’ll get an invite soon, but we're sending a small number of invites each week.”
According to Google’s coverage map, the service will be widely available but there are some rural areas where the service won’t be offered.
Google is charging $20 a month for unlimited talk and text, plus $10 per gigabyte for cellular data.
The Project Fi service requires a Nexus 6 mobile phone from Lenovo’s Motorola Mobility.
Republic’s service also requires Motorola phones.