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Google Fi Wireless Service Adds Group Plans

October 11, 2016, 7:47 PM UTC
Nick Fox
In this April 24, 2015 photo, Nick Fox, Vice President for Communications Products at Google, prepares a presentation on Project Fi, in Mountain View, Calif. Project Fi is Google's recently launched attempt to usher in new ways to keep smartphones online while lowering the cost for streaming video, listening to music, getting directions and searching for information. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez — AP

Google finally added group plans to its low cost wireless service Fi, but the pricing may not match the most recent unlimited plans from larger carriers.

Under Google’s new group plans, subscribers can add lines for $15 for unlimited talk and texting, plus $10 per gigabyte for high speed 4G LTE data. An initial line is $20. Subscribers using the service don’t have to pay for a set amount of data in advance and are charged only for the data they actually use.

But since Fi hit the market in April, 2015, larger carriers have increased their data allowances and begun re-introducing unlimited plans. Both T-Mobile and Sprint offer group plans for unlimited data that are much cheaper than Fi for people who people who use at least a moderate amount of data.

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For example, for $140 on T-Mobile (TMUS) or $160 on Sprint (S) customers can get four lines with unlimited data. Customers get reduced quality video streaming with the plans, and those who use more than 23 GB per line on Sprint or 26 GB on T-Mobile can see their data rate slowed. But that’s still allowing customers with four lines to use a total of 92 GB to 104 GB per month of data.

On Fi’s new group plan, $140 for four lines would include less than 8 GB of total data to share. At $160, Fi would give under 10 GB of shared data.

Even Verizon, which don’t offer unlimited plans to most customers, charges less than $10 per GB for many of its group plans. One Verizon (VZ) plan currently being offered costs $160 per month for four lines with 20 GB of data, which would cost $265 on Fi.

That means the Fi group plan wouldn’t make economic sense unless the customers used only small amounts of data per month.

Google (GOOGL) hasn’t said how many subscribers have signed up for Fi, which includes coverage on the wireless networks of T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. The service only offers a few phones, and Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone isn’t among them, although it recently added Google’s two new Pixel phones.