SAN FRANCISCO -- Google unveiled a U.S. wireless service as the Internet giant looks for new ways to extend its reach in mobile.
Project Fi is being offered in partnership with Sprint and T-Mobile US networks and will charge customers $20 a month for basic features such as talk and text, plus a flat $10 per gigabyte for data in the U.S. and abroad. Users will get credit for unused gigabytes. The service will be available in nearly all metropolitan areas, according to Google's coverage map.
The technology works through wireless carrier networks or through Wi-Fi and can switch between them during a call as needed. The service will begin on an invitation-only basis. Customers can request an invitation through Google's website.
"Project Fi enables us to work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what's possible," the company said in a blog post. "By designing across hardware, software and connectivity, we can more fully explore new ways for people to connect and communicate."
Google is looking for new ways to expand its influence in mobile as consumers increasingly pick up smartphones when they want to access the Internet. Selling its own wireless service could enable the Mountain View, California-based company to add customers for its Android operating system, which is used by many device makers, and make it easier to serve those users advertisements via smartphones and tablets.
The new service will be available on the Nexus 6, the company said. The phone was developed with Lenovo Group Ltd.'s Motorola Mobility Holdings, which was owned by Google until last year. The Nexus 6 is the first smartphone that supports the hardware and software to work with the new offering.
"We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it's Wi-Fi or one of our two partner" networks, Google said.
Sprint is "proud to enable Google's entry into the wireless industry as a service provider," the carrier said in a statement.
Google previously invested in a high-speed Internet and TV service in a handful of U.S. cities, competing with companies such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc.
"Google would like to see what it can do to get greater Internet adoption," said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics LLC. "This is like Google Fiber part two, a large technology showpiece, a playground to test out new applications and show what's possible,"
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March, Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai said Google was working with mobile carriers to "push the boundaries" of data services in the U.S.
The company can use the new service to get additional data on users, such as more extensive location and billing information, said J. P. Gownder, an analyst at Forrester Research.
"They're going to get a more complete picture of what it is that these users are doing," Gownder said. "So, really, the data element is a very important element here."