Google Adds Voice Services to Fiber

Fixed-Line Service Gets a 21st Century Upgrade

This week, Google announced a fixed-line home phone service that runs on top of the company’s high-speed Google Fiber broadband service. By combining Internet access, TV and voice services, Google is entering triple-play territory. Google Fiber is still only available in nine US cities, but the service has been influential beyond its limited reach by setting an example for incumbent operators. Google plans to roll Fiber out to more markets.

Google Fiber was launched in 2012, and only in a few neighbourhoods in Kansas City. Google combined broadband and TV services over high-capacity fibre-optic lines running directly to subscribers’ homes at speeds of 1 Gbps. Now the company is moving deeper into the telecom market by offering its own bundled telephone service.

Google Fiber Phone provides Google Fiber subscribers with unlimited local and national calls for an extra $10 a month, which includes call waiting, caller ID and 911 support. All-you-can-eat voice is nothing revolutionary, but in many ways, Fiber Phone brings fixed-line voice calling into the 21st century by adding a smart series of features. Subscribers can use traditional fixed-line terminals, but also smart devices such as phones and tablets. Here, voice is an “over the top” service accessible anywhere in the world. Voicemail can be transcribed and sent as a text or e-mail.

In many ways, Fiber Phone is similar to Google’s own cloud-based Google Voice, a free Internet service that provides users with a phone number, voice mail and reasonably accurate message transcription. Google Fiber subscribers who already use Google Voice could find Fiber Phone redundant. However, Fiber Phone could appeal to customers who currently buy their Internet and TV service from Google Fiber, and still want traditional land-line services. Google is trying to make a dent in Middle America where its fibre service was introduced and where customers still use land lines, unlike other parts of the country where fixed-line use has shown signs of declining.

Google’s efforts to offer traditional phone services highlights the company’s moves to be more like traditional service providers as many existing telecom providers look to become a bit more like Google, connecting their content to the cloud. This new level of convergence is not only an attempt by Google to take some market share, but is also just as much an attempt to set an example for operators, which Google perceives as moving too slowly in the shift to the cloud.

Parallel to Google’s move into fibre services, it is also enhancing its mobile offering, Project Fi. In March 2016, the company removed its invitation-only requirement, opening it up to all US consumers. CCS Insight has predicted that Google will launch a mobile virtual network operator service in a leading European market. We believe its strategy is to push local providers to more rapidly deploy mobile networks that will drive use of Google’s own services such as search, maps and YouTube.