Google Launches Mobile Phone Network

Google has announced its plan to run a mobile phone network in the US.

The firm will use existing Wi-Fi hot spots rather than build new infrastructure from scratch and will rent voice and data capacity from two existing operators.

Project Fi will initially only be offered to Nexus 6 handset owners.

Google Fiber, the firm's "ultra-fast" broadband service is already seen as a disruptive force in the US telecoms market.

The project has been credited with encouraging Comcast and Time Warner Cable, offering their own customers speed boosts without higher prices.

However, Fiber's rollout involved Google buying infrastructure built by companies that had collapsed, as well as laying its own fibre optic cables; providing it with full control of the service.

One expert said running a mobile virtual network, dependent on rivals' equipment, might limit project Fi's impact.

Ian Fogg from the IHS Technology consultancy said: "The example of MVNOs in the US and elsewhere suggests that it's hard for their operators to dramatically change the industry because of their nature.

"But the past isn't always a guide to the future.

"No-one would have thought that a handset manufacturer could transform the mobile industry by teaming up with one network - but that's what happened with Apple and AT&T when the iPhone launched.

"And Google itself has repeatedly shown that it is capable of changing the direction of an industry by entering it."

Chief of Google's Android platform Sundar Pichai first mentioned the company's plan to create a phone network in February, but provided little detail at the time.

Google has said its subscribers will be automatically switched between 4G signals provided by Sprint and T-Mobile - depending on which is stronger at the time.

Users will also be able to make calls over Wi-Fi without having to use an app.

On its blog, Google said: "As you go about your day, Project Fi automatically connects you to more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots we've verified as fast and reliable.

"Once you're connected, we help secure your data through encryption. When you're not on Wi-Fi, we move you between whichever of our partner networks is delivering the fastest speed, so you get 4G LTE in more places."

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