Home Google’s Latest (Potential) Disruption: Per-Gigabyte Wireless Data Charges

Google’s Latest (Potential) Disruption: Per-Gigabyte Wireless Data Charges

Google’s forthcoming wireless service could allow customers to pay for data by the gigabyte, says a new report from Android Police Monday—a move that could force the hands of U.S. carriers used to roping customers into complicated data-cap plans that often end up gouging them.

See also: Why Your Cell-Phone Bill Should Be Going Down—But Isn’t

The news comes by way of an app made for the Google service that turned up in an unofficial Nexus 6 firmware image. Called Tycho, the app may reveal pricing details for Google’s MVNO service—called “Project Fi” within the app.

Wireless & Painless

The Tycho app itself will apparently give customers the ability to perform the usual kinds of account maintenance functions, like paying bills, activating phone numbers, and checking usage information. But some of the in-app text seems to reveal what could make Project Fi the wireless plan of your dreams:

Your plan lets you choose how much data you want to pay for per month.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it just right: we’ll give you a refund for what you don’t use, and if you go over it’s the same cost.

Later, there are more details about sharing data:

Shared data across all your devices. Always the fastest speed. Use less? Receive a refund. Use more? Still the same cost.

If these details turn out to be genuine, Google could offer U.S. wireless customers a plan that’s too good to resist. I’ve reached out to Google for insight, and this was their spokesperson’s response: 

No official comment. But as you know we did confirm we’re launching an MVNO … stay tuned.

Obviously, that’s not much in the way of confirmation. But it’s no secret that wireless plans in the United States are priced far, far higher than what they actually cost to provide. As with Google’s other initiatives, from Gmail to Google Fiber, the company is likely looking to show the competition how it’s done, and it could revolutionize the wireless business in the process.

Why Fi

This logo for “Project Fi” was found inside the Tycho app (image via Android Police).

In 2013, Android Central reported that wireless carriers in the United States charged some of the highest prices for service in the world. Meanwhile, in October of 2014, Ars Technica explained how data caps are a sham designed to generate profit, not protect network speeds. And in May of 2014, we found out that providing 4G service should actually cost less than providing 3G, despite pricing that would seem to indicate otherwise.

See also: Lucky Nexus 6 Owners Will Reportedly Try Out Google’s Wireless Service First

The upshot here is that there’s plenty of evidence that US wireless companies routinely gouge their customers. Google’s plans for an MVNO could help show customers that they don’t deserve inflated pricing just to line providers’ pockets. And if enough consumers decide they like to pay fairer prices for services they depend on, those providers might lower prices in response and usher in a saner wireless world.

Cellular tower testing photo by Idaho National Laboratory

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