Today, Google officially launched its Project Fi phone service and Tesla just announced a 30 April launch event for its solar-powered batteries for homes.
The Google Fi phone plan prices are pretty attractive. For $20 a month, subscribers get talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering and international coverage and it's only $10 per gigabyte of data after that. Plus the plan refunds any data you don't use.
Right now Fi only works with (surprise, surprise) Google’s Nexus phones but there’s some talk about placing people’s numbers in the cloud where they can access the service from any device.
Tesla, on the other hand, has plans to start offering banks of solar-charged batteries that could be used to power homes or even entire businesses. (No prices have yet been announced.)
Both of these initiatives are ambitious and potentially disruptive – and in my book that’s a good thing.
If Google can get Fi off and running the other carriers are going to have to start reconsidering their pricing practices. Even with competition from other existing carriers, prices haven’t come down all that much. But if Google can undercut just about everyone and leverage their cloud and online offerings to enhance a phone service then things are going to get very interesting.
The same is true with Tesla. No doubt their systems are going to be very expensive at first, but if anybody knows about batteries Tesla does. And if anybody is willing to subsidise a technology in order to drive down prices it would be Tesla.
In Tesla’s case it’s going to take years before utility companies even take notice and more years after that before they start considering (gasp) more competitive rates. Utility companies haven’t had to even think about competition for…well, not since Edison faced off against…um, Tesla…and ironically enough, Tesla actually won that battle (which is why we have alternating current instead of direct current in our homes).
Of course, if Tesla or Google actually to begin seriously threaten the already entrenched telecommunications or power industries you can bet there will be lawsuits and new regulations and massive efforts to stop them.
Until then, kudos to Tesla and Google. Keep shooting for the moon. Keep testing the boundaries. Keep challenging the powers that be.