Google launches first salvo in the VPN war with bundled offer

VPN by Google One
(Image credit: Google)

Bundles have become the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of tech giants looking to retain existing customers and attract new ones - with Amazon Prime being, well, the prime example.

While we expected big tech to embrace the VPN trend, we didn’t anticipate Google would be the second out of the gates (after Facebook's disastrous VPN attempt).

The company has announced it will give a free VPN - VPN by Google One - to anyone that subscribes to its Google One 2TB plan. The free VPN will first reach US-based Android users, before expanding to other territories (Canada, Australia, Germany and UK) and platforms (iOS, Windows and Mac) in the coming months.

What VPN are you using?

TechRadar will publish an article about the the most popular VPN services on November 30th and we need your help. Please click the relevant link below to tell us what VPN service you're currently using; this will open a new web page.

ExpressVPN | NordVPN |Surfshark | IPVanish | Others | I don't currently use a VPN

Free VPN with a catch

At $99.99 per year, the 2TB offer comes with a number of extras, including Google Drive cloud storage, Gmail, Google Photos, Google Workspace, 10% back in Google Store rewards and the ability to share the plan with up to five additional people.

You should also be able to use a device as a hotspot, which would allow even more devices to be serviced by the VPN, enabled via a slider on the Google One app.

Google promises never to log “your network traffic or IP”, but minimal logging may take place to ensure quality of service (which is something all VPN providers usually do). 

As you might expect, Google shunned both OpenVPN and Wireguard in favor of its own proprietary protocol (to ensure a high throughput while minimizing battery consumption), although it may embrace other protocols further down the line.

In a bid to remain transparent, Google has open sourced the code that runs on a user’s device and promised to open source the server-side user authentication mechanism. The company will also publish the results of a third party audit, which is already taking place.

Competitors to catch up soon

So, what’s next? We expect Apple (with Apple One), Amazon (with Prime) and Microsoft (with Microsoft 365) to follow Google with their own VPN solutions. After all, given they own hundreds of thousands of server racks, it’s not as if rolling out VPN for their users will cost millions.

Other VPN providers will be thrilled that Google is lending its legitimacy to the VPN cause, growing the size of the VPN pie; a market that is already worth tens of billions of dollars.

While the likes of ExpressVPN, NordVPN or Hotspotshield are unlikely to be bothered by Google’s announcement, we suspect it will further accelerate the consolidation we’ve started to see in the market.

Note, the offer is only valid for those who have accounts. If you use your own domain name, you won’t be able to access Google One, nor the VPN. The same goes for Google Workspace users, who won’t receive a free VPN anytime soon.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.