Google said it will offer its Wi-Fi Assistant service to all Nexus users in a move that is sure to threaten its wireless carrier partners.
Wi-Fi Assistant enables users to automatically connect to more than 1 million free and open Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. The offering had previously been available only through Google’s Project Fi service, but it will roll out to all Nexus devices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Nordic countries “in the next few weeks,” the company said.
“To stay connected in places where your cell connection isn’t as strong, you can have your phone or tablet automatically connect to open Wi-Fi networks that we’ve verified as fast and reliable,” according to a Google web page. “Wi-Fi Assistant is a free service that makes these connections for you securely.”
Nexus owners will be able to access the service and turn it on and off in their Android settings.
The move poses a clear threat to wireless carriers because it helps Android users access data over Wi-Fi, avoiding cellular charges. And it brings Google one step closer to becoming a wireless service provider, challenging the operators it depends on to sell Android devices.
Project Fi launched in April 2015 as a kind of MVNO, enabling users to pay $20 a month to access the networks of T-Mobile and Sprint as well as a huge network of Wi-Fi hotspots for voice, text and data usage. Earlier this year Google ditched its invitation-only policy for the service and opened it to all comers, and in June it added U.S. Cellular to its partner network for the service.
Google clearly risks drawing the ire of its carrier partners by making Wi-Fi Assistant widely available to Nexus users. But the company has wrestled away much of the power of mobile network operators as Android has risen to dominate the worldwide smartphone market. As this latest announcement indicates, Google isn’t afraid to escalate that struggle one step at a time.
- see this Google web page
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