Don’t expect Google’s wireless phone service to have a major impact just yet

Google Inc. on Wednesday launched a new wireless service called Project Fi that switches between Wi-Fi and cellular networks to curb data use and keep phone bills low. The service, Google’s first entry into the wireless industry, will be hosted through Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile’s networks. But like other Google projects, it’s a bold plan that will start out small. At first, Google’s Nexus 6 will be the only smartphone that works with the service. Like Google Fiber, this wireless service will likely be a small-scale rollout that forces other wireless carriers down the rabbit hole, compromising their own strategies in order to play catch-up.

We want to experiment along those lines. We don’t intend to be a network operator at scale.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products, at a Barcelona conference last month

If Google’s new service proves popular, we might see Verizon and AT&T change their strategies, since both companies currently charge fixed rates for data no matter how much people actually use. But even if it’s a small and rarely used service, increased competition in the telecommunications space is terrific for all consumers, no matter how you look at it.