After months of rumors and speculation, this morning Google announced that it will be entering the wireless carrier game to compete with Verizon, AT&T, and the rest of the carriers in the United States. Project Fi, Google’s new mobile network, uses some of the latest technology to keep users connected to the best network possible, whenever, wherever, and has some low monthly rates that will put other carriers on notice.
Earlier this year some initial rumors were floating around suggesting that Google was looking to create its own wireless network, but that isn’t quite what’s going on here. While this new project will compete with Verizon and other carriers, it’s a move to advance mobile and connectivity technology, more than to actually compete with carriers.
Google’s new wireless mobile network is called Project Fi, and was just announced and revealed this morning. Below we’ll go over all the details, what you need to know, and how it all works.
Even though Google claims Project Fi isn’t aimed at competing with other carriers, it has a lot to offer, and could be a great move for potential smartphone owners looking to find a better connection, and a lower monthly bill. You’ll have the fastest available connection at any given moment, you only pay for what you use, and it’s coming exclusively to the Nexus 6, with more devices in the near future.
What is Project Fi?
Project Fi is the official name for Google’s new wireless mobile network similar to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. And while a better name will likely be announced once this is a mainstream service, for now that’s what they’re calling it. This is just the initial launch, only available to a select few that receive an invite, but we’ll go over all of that below.
Google’s wireless network will be a 3-part system. Using T-Mobile, Sprint, and free WiFi hotspots all over the country. This is how you’ll make phone calls, send texts, browse the web, Facebook and more. It’s a cutting edge technology that takes the best connection any any given moment, switches between 4G LTE and WiFi seamlessly, and allows the user connectivity freedom. At least according to Google. The goal is to give you the best, most reliable, and fastest connection possible at any given moment. Below is the launch video explaining things better for those interested.
At first you may be on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE at home, but if a better connection becomes available from WiFi or Sprint while you’re traveling, at work, or out and about at a coffee shop, your Project Fi connected device will switch for you, all behind the scenes. We’re not yet sure how this will affect battery life, but Google’s promising a seamless transition between connections. Allowing users to enjoy the best smartphone experience possible, whenever and wherever they are.
Enabling easy communication across networks and devices
Project Fi works to get technology out of the way so you can communicate through whichever network type and device you’re using. Wherever you’re connected to Wi-Fi—whether that’s at home, your favorite coffee shop or your Batcave—you can talk and text like you normally do. If you leave an area of Wi-Fi coverage, your call will seamlessly transition from Wi-Fi to cell networks so your conversation doesn’t skip a beat. We also want to help phone numbers adapt to a multi-screen world. With Project Fi, your phone number lives in the cloud, so you can talk and text with your number on just about any phone, tablet or laptop. So the next time you misplace your phone, you can stay connected using another screen.
Project Fi will be using T-Mobile, Sprint, and over 1 million free WiFi hotspots around the country that they’ve deemed safe, fast, and reliable. Everything will be securely encrypted as well, for user protection and peace of mind. It’s a bold project, and exactly that, just a project for now, only available to a select few.
For now Google’s own Motorola Nexus 6 smartphone launched in November of 2014 is the only device the carrier will be offering. Those with a Nexus 6 can sign up for an invite to Project Fi, or buy one when they sign up for service and become a customer of Google’s new wireless network.
Just as early rumors suggested, the Nexus 6 will be the only device able to take advantage of Google’s Project Fi, at least for now. Most likely the Moto X, Nexus 5, and hopefully new devices like the Galaxy S6 will be on board in the future, but for now the Nexus 6 is the only option. You can use Project Fi if you already own the Nexus 6, or buy one when you sign up.
This is all we know thus far about device options, and hopefully in the coming weeks or months Google will announce more details, device compatibility, and more.
One of the most important aspects of Project Fi is the price. Google needs to get customers to leave Verizon or AT&T, and try out Project Fi. How are they going to do this? By being the cheapest wireless carrier in the United States. This is a bold move.
For $20 a month you get all the basics (talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in 120+ countries), and then it’s a flat $10 per GB for cellular data while in the U.S. and abroad. 1GB is $10/month, 2GB is $20/month, 3GB is $30/month, and so on.
Typically carriers offer 1, 2, 5 or 10GB data plans, or shared family data pools. With Project Fi, you only pay for what you use. Some carriers like T-Mobile rollover data, so if you don’t use all 5GB one month, the leftovers are available the following. And while that’s nice, it doesn’t make your monthly phone bill any less.
With Project Fi if you use 3GB of data one month you’ll pay the $20 plus $10 for each GB of data, making your bill only $50 that month. If the following month you use 5GB of data you’ll pay $70. That is pretty cheap, and extremely consumer friendly. You’ll pay for data up front, so ask for 5GB for one month, and if you use more, just pay an additional $10 for an extra GB of data. Let’s say you go with 3GB for $30 and only use 1.4GB one month. You’ll get $16 back. You only pay for what you use. Now this is something I can get behind!
Google will be charging $20 flat for the service, and is offering users 1GB of data, all the way to 10GB of data. We’re not sure if more will be available for data-heavy users, but from their website showing plans, that’s all we’re seeing so far. Oh, and WiFi tethering is free, no matter what. Compared to carriers charging $10-20 a month for tethering and WiFi hotspots.
So how can to ditch Verizon and sign up for Project Fi? Well, for now you can’t. This is just an early project and only available to a select few users that are accepted into Google’s early access program. You’ll need a Nexus 6, be somewhere in the United States where they have coverage (anywhere with T-Mobile, Sprint and WiFi) and you’ll need to request an invite.
Starting today Google will be sending a few invites out per week, rolling out more and more invites and allowing more uses on its new wireless network each week. We’ve already signed up, and the email states to keep an eye on our inbox, as invites will arrive in “the coming weeks”. This means that the service isn’t available today to the public, and there’s no actual date listed anywhere on the website.
That said, Project Fi is real, it’s here, and you’ll be able to test it out soon enough and possibly ditch your current carrier.
Check for Coverage
If everything above sounds excellent (and it does) you’re likely wondering if Project Fi is available in your area, and if coverage will be good enough for you to ditch the solid 4G LTE you’re enjoying from Verizon or AT&T. For now this is just the initial launch, but you’ll have coverage anywhere there is T-Mobile, Sprint, or WiFi. Meaning yes, you’re probably covered.
That said, Google is making things easy for potential customers and you can check for coverage by clicking here. Most likely you’ll have coverage and be able to use Project Fi, but give it a look just to be safe, then request an invite from the link and details above.
Google created a special SIM card with help from their partners that allows you to access multiple networks. You’ll need this once you sign up to be able to use Fi’s coverage.
This is the first day and all the details have yet to be confirmed. Google’s only just announced Project Fi, will start sending invites out in the coming weeks, and users will start flooding the network. With device compatibility being limited to the Nexus 6 we don’t expect any slowdown from the network being over-used, but we’ll have to wait and see. Our biggest questions are how smooth the transition between networks will be, how much of a battery drain it will be, and when we’ll actually be able to test and try Project Fi.
From what we’re hearing and seeing, this is a huge step forward for carriers and mobile connections as a whole, and the pricing is very aggressive. Allowing users to choose how much data they want, only pay for what they use, and get a refund if they don’t use it all. All while delivering free tethering and international calling.
In closing, Google claims Project Fi phone numbers “live in the cloud,” enabling you to text and place voice calls from a laptop or tablet without your actual phone nearby. Then when you are on the phone, Google says calls can seamlessly transition to LTE when you leave a Wi-Fi network. It all sounds promising, as does the price, but we’ll have to wait and see. Keep an eye on your inbox, as invites will start going out this week, and more will continue each and every week. Will you be trying Project Fi?