Remember those days when we had to rely on landline telephones to get in touch with family and friends? Well, it seems like Google is going back in time, albeit with its own innovative touch.
The Mountain View-headquartered company has unveiled its Fiber Phone in the US, a new home phone service tied to Fiber Internet that can "help you stay connected wherever you are". Announced in a blog post on 29 March, the Fiber Phone will allow Google to compete with other "Triple Play" home offerings which package internet, TV and phone service from a single provider.
"Whether it's calling mom or ordering take-out, we rely on our phones to help reach the people and things that matter," said John Shriver-Blake, product manager at Google Fiber. "And while mobile phones have pushed us toward the future, home phone service is still important to many families. Landlines can be familiar, reliable and provide high-quality service, but the technology hasn't always kept up."
For $10/month, users can make unlimited local and national calls and the same rates apply for international calls as Google Voice. If you already have a landline, you can retain your old number if you do not wish to get a new one. It will also include traditional home phone service features such as caller ID, call waiting and 911 services. To make it easier to access voicemail, the service can even transcribe your voice messages for you and send them via text or email.
Since a Fiber Phone number is cloud-based, it can work with the hardware of your choice – including landline phone, tablet or notebook – and can ring your landline when you are at home or your cellphone, when on-the-go.
The actual hardware from Google consists of a little black Voip phone box that has both Ethernet and phone jacks to bridge your old-school landline phone to your new-school fiber connection.
While the new service is similar to the company's free Google Voice service and carries over many features from Project Fi, it could potentially appeal to families who already subscribe to Google's broadband and TV services, but still have their landline phone tied to a different provider. Instead, they might prefer to eliminate the extra bill and opt for a double or triple package deal with Google Fiber.
In January, Google sent out invitations to a number of high-speed internet subscribers to test out the new phone service in Beta mode.
Fiber is currently available in nine cities in the US including Austin, Kansas City, Charlotte and Nashville. Current Fiber plans range from free for a basic service, available in a limited number of cities, to $130 for TV service and a gigabit-speed internet connection.
According to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics, more Americans are "cutting the telephone cord" and moving away from landline services. More than 40% of American households had wireless phones in the second half of 2013.
The service will be introduced "in a few areas to start" and will eventually be rolled out as an option for residential customers in all of Google's Fiber cities.
Those interested in signing up for Fiber Phone can join a mailing list for future updates.