Kajeet re-emerges as Google’s partner for Wi-Fi on school buses

Kajeet, which launched in 2003 initially as an MVNO selling phones specifically designed for children, is back in the news this week with an announcement with Google powering internet services on school buses. Google will use Kajeet services to power the company’s new “Rolling Study Halls” initiative, which will deploy Wi-Fi onto school buses in a dozen states this year, as part of Google’s efforts to expand the use of its products in schools.

“We are very excited to be part of initiatives to help transform more communities around the country,” said CEO and founder of Kajeet, Daniel Neal, in a release. “As the mobile broadband expert for the Google Rolling Study Hall, Kajeet continues to extend the classroom and provide students additional time connecting to educational Internet.”

Google, for its part, said that it’s working to bridge the “homework gap” by providing internet services in mostly rural areas to students who may face long bus commutes. The company said it has conducted pilots of the “Rolling Study Halls” in North Carolina and South Carolina, and will expand the effort to students across 16 more school districts in rural locations. That, of course, dovetails with Google’s sales of Chromebooks and related online services to students and school districtsa notable effort considering Apple recently announced its own devices and services targeted to the education market.

But for Kajeet, the company’s new deal with Google is a key validation of the company’s pivot from MVNO services and phones for kids into a wireless service and solution provider to school districts and students. Kajeet in August of last year killed its MVNO service; the company struck a deal enabling customers to migrate to fellow MVNO TPO Mobile and activate service, receiving their first month for one cent.

That move allowed Kajeet to focus solely on its sales of broadband to the education market, a market that it began probing in 2012 and engaged with fully in 2015. Today the company partners with 127 school bus fleets in 34 states to connect student riders to educational Wi-Fi on the busthe company essentially installs a cellular modem on the bus that broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal to riders; the company sells services from all four major wireless providers at prices starting at around $10 per month for around 500 MB per day. Kajeet also partners with over 400 school districts that provide students internet at home with Kajeet-branded hotspot devices.

Kajeet isn’t alone among wireless providers in working to connect students to the internet. For example, Sprint in 2016 announced its plans to offer free mobile devices and free high-speed wireless internet connectivity to 1 million low-income, U.S. high school students.