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The real way to tell whether Google’s wireless service is a success

Google Project Fi Subscriber Numbers

There is no way that Google’s Project Fi wireless service is going to get tens of millions of subscribers and rival mega-carriers like AT&T and Verizon. But that’s not a big deal because Google didn’t launch Project Fi to make money directly from monthly subscription fees anyway. The real reason Google launched Project Fi was to change the wireless industry’s behavior in ways that benefit Google and, if we’re lucky, wireless consumers as well.

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So what does this mean? It means that if Google achieves its goals, then Verizon and Sprint should move more toward the pricing model that Google unveiled on Wednesday in which users get paid back directly for data they don’t use every month. T-Mobile and AT&T already do something like this with their rollover data plans, so it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch for Verizon and Sprint to follow suit at least in this regard.

The other way Google hopes to influence carriers is to push them into making seamless transitions from LTE to Wi-Fi so that if someone doesn’t have a strong signal in their apartment, their device will automatically switch over to their Wi-Fi signal without dropping their call or interrupting their download.

The good news is that we’ve seen Google succeed at changing how ISPs do business already with Google Fiber. Remember how just a couple of years ago, Time Warner Cable was insisting that consumers don’t really want 1Gbps fiber service? Well in markets where Google Fiber has launched, TWC and other incumbent providers have suddenly been stumbling all over themselves to upgrade their networks and match or even exceed Google Fiber’s speeds.

Obviously, the wireless market and the wireline market are two totally different animals but Google still has a history of knowing how to disrupt existing business models. Whether it succeeds this time, however, will probably take at least a couple of years to determine.

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.