Google Fi runs TV ads in 6 local markets

Recently, T-Mobile announced that it plans to expand its collaboration with Google. (Getty Images)

Google Fi is doing some television advertising, a first for the six-year-old Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), according to Best MVNO, which noticed the ads.

On May 3, Google Fi launched a “Connect Safely with Privacy & Security Features” TV ad, which has aired more than 1,000 times in the markets of Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis and Phoenix, according to Wave7 Research principal Jeff Moore.

“The airings are local, not national network or cable ads,” said Moore. “I don’t see a lot of local spot advertising. It looks like budget advertising, probably experimental. They’ve been advertising online for years. There’s been plenty of that.”

The television ad is also available on YouTube TV.

In terms of “connecting safely,” Google Fi’s website says, “Your personal information is protected with privacy and security features like a built-in VPN and spam blocking.”

It’s unclear what a “built-in VPN” looks like for an MVNO, and Google did not reply to a request for comment for this story.

In terms of privacy and security features of Google Fi, Peter Adderton, the founder of Boost Mobile, tweeted, “Ironic a company who owns and operates Android OS and App store is now concerned about customers privacy....”

Google Fi’s recent advertisements follow the company’s launch in April of its Simply Unlimited plans, which offer a new tier of cheaper, no-frills unlimited service. Customers pay a consistent price each month: $60 per month for one line; and the per-line charge decreases as more lines are added. 

Google Fi has been low-key

Google Fi launched as an MVNO in 2015, but it hasn’t promoted its service heavily. Google doesn’t report how many subscribers Google Fi has. An educated guesstimate from Prepaidcompare.net pegs the number in the 500,000 range.

The MVNO service rides on T-Mobile’s national network as well as the regional network of US Cellular. SIMs for Google Fi are sold at Best Buy and Target. The company also uses eSIM technology, which customers can take advantage of if they have Pixel phones. Google Fi brags that customers can set up the service “from their couch.” But in reality, the set-up looks a bit complicated based on Google Fi’s Help Page.

Smart phones brands that work on Google Fi, in addition to Pixel, include models from Samsung and Motorola. According to the Google Fi website, it has also begun to offer its service on the iPhone, but some special set-ups are necessary.

Google and T-Mobile

In late March, T-Mobile announced that it plans to expand its collaboration with Google, including establishing Messages by Google as the default rich messaging solution for T-Mobile customers who have Android smartphones; promoting Pixel and Android devices; using Google One as the preferred phone backup and cloud storage solution; and embracing YouTube TV as T-Mobile’s premium TV solution.

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We're likely to see more news related to Google and T-Mobile working together.