My Life of Fi

My Recent Experiences with Project Fi from Google

My Life of Fi

As your spring social calendar went from St. Patrick’s Day parties to the festivities of Cinco de Mayo, you might have overlooked another recent celebration in the telecommunications space. Project Fi (“Fi”), a very different wireless service from Google, recently celebrated its first birthday, and quietly went from being an invite-only beta to throwing open its doors to all US wireless subscribers.

Google launched Fi with minimal fanfare in the spring of 2015, positioning it as a new take on the traditional wireless model. Instead of relying on connectivity from cellular towers, smartphones on the Fi service will prioritize any available Wi-Fi connection for their voice and data traffic. Only on the occasions where Wi-Fi signals are weak or unavailable does the Fi service switch seamlessly over to the cellular networks of its partners—T-Mobile and Sprint—and then runs like a traditional mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

Google has long known that most of us spend the majority of our waking hours connected to Wi-Fi, and so is cleverly stringing together millions of hotspots as its “network” and only using cellular for a fraction of the average subscriber’s voice and data usage. In doing so, it is able to leverage existing free infrastructure and forego the massive network investments of traditional wireless providers, and subsequently can pass those savings on to its subscribers.

Project FiProject Fi: How it Works

At the heart of Project Fi is the concept of dynamic network selection—the service intelligently connects the subscriber to the best available network at their location, whether it’s Wi-Fi (the majority of the time) or one of either T-Mobile or Sprint’s 4G LTE networks.

Fi offers a single, no-contract plan. It’s $20 for the base service, which includes unlimited calls and text, and then $10 for each 1 GB of data. The novel part is that the subscriber only pays for the data that they actually use. So if you prepay for (say) 3 GB of data, but only end up using 2 GB, Fi refunds you $10 for the unused 1 GB. Similarly, if you have a 1 GB plan but end up using 3 GB after streaming that NBA playoff game, you’ll only get charged $20 for the extra 2 GB. No overage penalties or price escalations.

The plan also has an attractive international component. It includes free international texts, and for those who travel abroad and have been burnt by roaming charges in the past, there is comfort in knowing that the exact same data costs apply in over 120 countries.

The only catch is that Project Fi is currently limited to Google Nexus phones only. They currently sell the Nexus 6P (from Huawei) starting at $499 and the Nexus 5X (from LG) starting at $199.

In theory, it is a brilliant design, but how well does it work? Well, let’s find out.

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Telecommunication Market Research: Syndicated vs. Proprietary

Syndicated vs. Proprietary

Most market research firms specialize in syndicated or proprietary (i.e., custom) research. Depending on the firm’s offerings, account reps usually give one-sided justifications why their approach is superior. Market Strategies has custom and syndicated practices so the purpose of this article is to present a more balanced view of the benefits and risks associated with each type of research as they relate to the telecom industry. We pose three key questions that will help you determine which type of research is best suited to your brand’s unique needs, and we explore why custom research may be more advantageous given current industry trends.

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I’ll Take My TV A La Carte, Please!

2015-10-tv-a-la-carteThe buzz around picking your television packages a la carte in the future is getting louder. As a consumer, would you prefer to pick and choose the channels you watch, paying for only what you want, or do you prefer the current set up of pre-packaged channels, including those which you may or may not ever watch? It seems that big cable/satellite companies are worried about the implications of providing an a la carte television package to its customers, and they have been fighting it over the last few years. The potential option of having more choice and control over the channels consumers purchase could change the entire industry, and that may be exactly what many consumers desire.

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Market Research Musings from a Cord-Cutter Newbie

2015-04-cord-cutterNearly a year ago, my life changed drastically when a tornado destroyed my family’s home. We moved into an apartment while we rebuilt and had many decisions to make, including whether to keep our home telephone number. We decided to keep it in case those who didn’t know what happened tried to reach us or in case certain accounts were tied to it. However, it didn’t take long to realize that, even under these different circumstances, the “home phone” is not as necessary as we had once thought—the only people calling that number were my mother-in-law and telemarketers.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago: we were ready to move into our new house, and, after seeing such little usage over the past nine months, we decided to “cut the cord.” This turned out to be a little difficult in some ways—that number had been a part of us for more than 20 years, and we wondered how we would call our cell phones to find them when they get lost in the couch.

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The Foreseeable Consequences of #NetNeutrality

Net Neutrality AheadThe FCC has taken a firm stand on Net Neutrality, making it clear that internet providers cannot sell access to “fast lanes” on their networks. The news media and other consumer advocate talking heads have been chiming in from all directions trying to convince the public why this is either the best thing or the worst thing that has happened since the creation of the internet. There are merits to both sides, but there are definite logical consequences of the FCC’s ruling that internet providers would be well advised to consider.

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Gimme 5: What to Expect from 5G Wireless Networks

Rumbles from La Rambla

If you are even remotely associated with the telecom and tech industries, you will know that this is the week of Mobile World Congress (MWC). No time for gazing at Sagrada Familia or long strolls on La Rambla—all attention in Barcelona will be on the latest developments in telecom, with keynotes from some of the biggest names in the industry, plenty of new smartphone launches and perhaps even the opportunity to test the odd smart car or two.

What makes the 2015 event particularly notable is that this is the year that fifth generation (5G) wireless network technology will really gather momentum. Both the Next Generation Mobile Network alliance and the European Commission are revealing the details of their respective 5G white papers, and major equipment manufacturers such as Ericsson, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent and ZTE will all be discussing and demonstrating the results of their early forays into 5G. While the first commercial 5G networks are only anticipated to launch shortly before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the next five years will undoubtedly witness a growing frenzy of development and standardization, and that frenzy is kicking off now.

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Telecom Trends to Watch For in 2015

The stage is set for 2015 to be a chaotic year of rapidly shifting landscapes for the telecommunication industry. While nobody can predict with absolute certainty what the future will bring, here is a rundown of some of the more likely scenarios:

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To Trust or Not To Trust: Building Loyalty in Telecom

Trust?For nearly a decade I have watched the largest and smallest telecommunications companies attempt to gauge their customers’ experience and overall satisfaction. Measures like Net Promoter Score (NPS) have been all the rage for the past several years, where company leadership views likelihood to recommend as a proxy for brand health and happy customers. My clients also focus a lot on the quality and value of the services they provide. Reliability, accessibility, fewest dropped calls, network speed and cost give a robust picture of which parts of the service offering are working best and which are in need of attention. Taken together, these measures provide valuable information and critical key performance indicators (KPIs) that the C-suite uses to guide their decisions and maximize shareholder value.

But is it enough to have a strong product and satisfied customers? I contend not. There’s a missing ingredient—one that is essential to any long lasting relationship: trust.

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Rise of the Machines: From Modems to Murder

Rise of the MachinesA few years ago, I was told the story of somebody who had walked out of a shopping mall to find that their car had been stolen. They did what any one of us would have done in that situation: called the police and reported the crime. But they were also inadvertently doing exactly what the criminals wanted—focusing on the ‘stolen’ vehicle, which wasn’t the real crime after all. For what the criminals had done was gotten into the car, fired up the satellite navigation, clicked Home and gone straight to the owner’s residence. Confident that the missing car would detain the owner for at least a few hours, the criminals used the electronic door opener in the vehicle to gain access to the house and ransacked the same for valuables. After all, it is easier to sell ‘hot’ electronics and jewelry than it is a current model SUV. Eventually the owner returned home to find their car parked safely in the driveway but most of their treasured possessions gone.

Despite the crime, I remember being quite astounded at the ingenuity of the criminals, and specifically how they had used a (then) cutting-edge piece of technology to spearhead their nefarious plot. I was equally surprised recently when I read that the Europol, the European policing agency, has published a threat assessment predicting that the first murder via “hacked internet-connected device” is likely to occur before the end of 2014. How is that even possible? Is this just a case of the Europeans getting panicky over nothing, or is there a genuine risk here? And if there is a risk, what does this mean for researchers, especially those of us that work so closely with the world’s leading tech and security firms? Continue reading

Carrier Wars

2014-10-telecomLatest Brand Love Study Exposes Need for Innovation Among Carriers

In February and November of 2013, Market Strategies International investigated the concept of “Brand Love” for wireless phone carriers, handset manufacturers and mobile operating systems. Our goal was to understand current brand loyalty in the telecommunications space and its drivers. In that research, we discovered that customer loyalty was greatest for the wireless carrier. Among the carriers, both AT&T and T-Mobile showed loyalty growth across the course of the year.

Last year, T-Mobile disrupted the industry’s status quo with the launch of its “Uncarrier” initiative whereby it vowed to change the way that customers purchase mobile telecommunications devices and services. Now we see that 2014 has brought with it a dramatic shift in the way that the wider industry is marketing and selling to its customers. An all-out price war has ensued, the likes of which have not been seen since the historic cola wars of the 1980s. New headlines seem to appear almost daily touting the latest offer from carriers, each trying to outdo the other with promises of the best plans, best rates and best phones. For example…

Telecom Headlines

Given this chaotic marketplace, it is not surprising that customer loyalty has shifted as well (keep reading to learn how). As carriers continue cutting prices and offering more bandwidth, the industry is becoming more commoditized. It is increasingly difficult for wireless carriers to truly differentiate themselves in this highly competitive world. The latest wave of Brand Love explored this new reality and exposed the next best opportunities for wireless carriers, device manufacturers and mobile operating systems. We think you might be surprised… Continue reading