UPDATE: Aug. 30, 2017, 4:29 p.m. SGT Google has launched Hong Kong availability, in addition to Singapore.
Google Wifi has launched in Asia, making mesh Wi-Fi easier for the average man on the street — but there’s a catch.
The Wi-Fi router package is now available in Singapore and Hong Kong.
But for its Asian debut, Google Wifi is going to be a little harder to access, compared with Western countries.
Unlike its off-the-shelf availability in the U.S. — where you can buy the product in Best Buy stores in person, or online via Amazon or Google’s own online store — users in Singapore will have to sign up for a two-year contract with StarHub, one of the local internet operators.
StarHub will then send staff to your home to install routers for you, and you’ll be locked into a S$15 a month ($11 USD) contract for the next 24 months.
And in Hong Kong, you get two Wifi routers — not three — with a 30-month broadband subscription of HK$258 ($33) per month with provider, HKT.
The Hong Kong deal with HKT, like the Singapore one, is exclusive.
On the other hand, in the U.S. you can pick up a three-pack for $299, or $129 for a single router unit, no strings attached.
Exclusive? That’s so not Google’s style.
Google Wifi is already available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the UK, and the U.S. And yes, you can get it via Google’s online stores in those countries.
In Asia, Google’s online Store is available to users in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India.
Singapore doesn’t have a Google Store yet. So the tie-up with StarHub could simply be an easier way for Google to reach consumers here.
But exclusive? That’s so not Google’s style.
When we asked Martin Geh, Google’s managing director for Asia-Pacific hardware partnerships, he couldn’t comment on how long Google’s deal with StarHub is slated for. He did, however, acknowledge that it was “rare” for Google to have similarly exclusive arrangements in other markets.
Braver and more technical users might feel tempted to entirely bypass the whole lock-in deal and directly Amazon themselves a set, but Alex King, a Google Wifi product manager said that isn’t advisable.
He noted that different regions have unique channel regulations, and a Google Wifi router made for the U.S. might not play well with devices here.
Moreover, you won’t get much support or a warranty if you do that, since the support in Singapore is provided by StarHub.
According to a Redditor in Japan, who tried installing a set from the U.S. shortly after launch, he wasn’t able to access a handful of sites, including Netflix.
He said a Google spokesperson told him:
The reason for this is that U.S. use different channels than other countries. Since Google Wifi is currently only available in North America, the hardware for Google Wifi only supports channels that are available for that region.
So exclusive or otherwise, users in Singapore and Hong Kong might have to consider signing on with the respective internet providers, if they want Google Wifi badly.