In April, Google unveiled Project Fi — a new wireless service the company claims will deliver faster speeds and better coverage with a unique, economical approach to pricing. Today, we’re going to take a look at what Google wants to do, and how they plan to pull it off.
What Is Project Fi?
Project Fi is Google’s effort to ensure that everyone has access to a high speed wireless network all the time. Because, even in today’s connected world, there are still times when we need information quickly but don’t have a fast enough connection to get it. Project Fi aims to make sure that never happens.
In addition to offering high-speed data service, Google also wants to make Fi more affordable, by billing differently than most mobile plans. Instead of paying for a monthly data plan, with outrageous fees if you exceed it, Google will charge you only for the data you actually use, at a predictable flat rate.
Don’t be mistaken, though: Project Fi is not a wireless carrier in the traditional sense. Google has made it very clear that it’s not interested in competing with established carriers. In fact, it has partnered with two of the top U.S. mobile carriers — Sprint and T-Mobile — to make Project Fi possible, and it relies on their towers for cellular connectivity.
How It Works
Project Fi is a network of networks. It makes sure you’re connected to the best possible network wherever you are. If you’re on Verizon’s network and Fi detects that Sprint has a stronger signal, you’ll be moved over to Sprint to give you the fastest available speed. Throughout a given day, you may be passed between two 4G LTE networks and various public WiFi hotspots — and, in theory, it will be totally seamless.
Project Fi makes heavy use of WiFi, connecting your device to “free, open networks that do not require any action to get connected.” So, as you step into the range of a public WiFi network, you’ll be automatically connected — and when the signal begins to weaken, you’ll be passed back over to the fastest available cellular network. And don’t worry: all data sent through open WiFi hotspots is secured through encryption.
Google also wants to make you device-independent. With Project Fi, your phone number “lives in the cloud.” You can call and text over WiFi, and you can talk, text, and check voicemail using your phone number on just about any device — Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, or Chromebook. In a sense, Project Fi is Google Voice’s big brother. In face, you’ll be asked to either use or throw out your Google Voice number when you sign up.
Project Fi takes a “fresh approach” to plans and pricing. There’s only one available plan, and it really couldn’t be much simpler. There’s no annual contract, and the charges are based on usage.
The first part of the plan, “Fi Basics,” costs $20 per month. This includes unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international text, “low-cost” international calls,Wi-Fi tethering, and coverage in more than 120 countries.
Beyond that, it’s $10 per gigabyte of data. That is, $10 for 1GB, $20 for 2GB, etc.
But wait — it gets more interesting. You only pay for the data you actually consume, and you’ll be credited for any rollover data in the next payment period. For example, if you’re on a 2GB data plan ($20/month) and only use 1GB in a particular month, you’ll get $10 back the following month.
What’s The Catch?
There’s no catch per se — but there are a couple of drawbacks for early adopters.
First and foremost, you have to have a Nexus 6. Google says it’s keeping Project Fi exclusive to Nexus 6 owners because the device supports a wide array of LTE networks. Users of other devices will have to wait, sadly.
Project Fi also only supports individual accounts at first, and there’s no support for family plans – for now, at least.
How To Sign Up
For the time being, Project Fi is an invite-only program — but you can get on the waiting list today! If you have a Nexus 6 and want to give Google’s network of networks a try, you can request an invite here.