Today Google officially announced their previously rumored entry into the world of wireless service. This new endeavor is known as Project Fi, and it's exclusive to owners of the Nexus 6 who live in the United States. While carriers have offered branded mobile devices at times, the entry of a company making mobile phones into the business of providing the wireless service for their own devices is unprecedented. But unlike Google Fiber, Project Fi is not Google's attempt to build a new wireless network in the United States. Rather, they will be acting as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) running on the T-Mobile and Sprint networks, as well as piggybacking off of open WiFi hotspots.

On a typical carrier you will pay for some bucket of data alongside your calling minutes and texts, and if you don't use all that data during the month then it disappears. Some carriers like T-Mobile USA have played with this by allowing data to roll over to another month, much like how many prepaid carriers allow minutes to roll over to the next month if they are unused. But in general, you often end up paying for more data then you actually need to avoid overage charges. With Project Fi, Google starts plans at $20 per month for unlimited domestic calling and unlimited domestic + international texting. On top of that you can select how much data you believe you will need, with the cost being $10/GB.

The unique aspect of Project Fi when compared to other network operators is how Google is changing the situation with unused data. Rather than rolling it over or having it disappear, Google simply credits you for the difference. For example, a user who pays $30 for 3GB per month may only use 1.4GB that month. In that situation, Google will credit them $16 for the data they did not use. Effectively, this means that Google only charges users for the data they use, but not at the typically ridiculous rates for pay as you need data on other carriers. What I don't understand is why Google even has data tiers in the first place. Given the rounding, they might as well just charge $1 for every 100MB used, as any overages are charged as the same rate as the data in the plan itself.

Google is also taking much of the pain out of roaming in other nations. The data you purchase for your Project Fi plan is usable in 120 different countries, although it's limited to a speed of 256Kbps. Google's network also extends beyond cellular carriers, with Google's network configured to automatically utilize public hotspots as part of the network itself. WiFi calling is supported, and so the transition between cellular and WiFi should be seamless in theory. Google is also promising that information will be encrypted so that users can have their privacy preserved when using public WiFi.

The last really interesting part of Project Fi is how it will be able to integrate with Hangouts. Since your phone number "lives in the cloud", Google can push texts and phone calls to any devices that have the Google Hangouts application installed. This extends from your Nexus 6, to your Chromebook, to your iPad, to your Windows PC.

Project Fi is currently beginning as an early access program. Users who are interested and who own the Nexus 6 can check out Google's sign up page to apply to be one of the first users of this new network. Google's blog post in the source below has a bit more information as well as a video about this new project

Source: Google

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  • edzieba - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    They may need to sweetend the deal to make it competitive in other markets.

    Here's in the UK, I'm currently paying £15 a month (about $23) for 2000 minutes, 5000 texts, and unlimited (in this case actually unlimited, not just marketing) data with tethering included. When abroad, including the US, the voice and text allowances roll over, but data is limited to a mere 25gb. Which makes it bizarrely cheaper to roam in the US than purchase any domestic US tariff. You do lose access to 4G data rates though (even if you switch to the phone with the correct LTE radio bands).
    Reply
  • Speedfriend - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    @edzieba

    That soiunds like a great deal, which network are you on?
    Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Hmm, is it? I've been using around 10GB a month lately, sometimes 6GB sometimes 12GB but the average is probably at 10GB or close... That would be $100/mo with Google whereas Sprint & Tmo offer unlimited plans for $60-80.

    If you consistently use under 7GB of data a month then there's cheaper plans out there too... This might become more attractive at that point tho. I applaud the effort tho, specially if it works as a dual carrier MVNO?

    That bit wasn't clear...
    Reply
  • testbug00 - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    It is a great deal for most people. I imagine most people who get the Nexus 6 are on one of the "big 4" in the USA. T-mobile and sprint offer unlimited packages... However, I would argue most people use under 2GB of data (probably under 1GB?) which makes this a cost of 30-40 dollars a month.

    The issue with this push is that the only phone it is on is a flagship. This feels like a perfect fit for future cheap Nexus phones. Imagine if a Moto E/G had this option? That would probably be the only recommendable phone for the low end (sans possibly T-mobile 5GB plan for $30)
    Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    Yeah I can see that, for the average user that rarely goes over 2GB (most of my family fits this description, young or old) it starts to make more sense... Tho only if they aren't in a family plan.

    As a $30-40 single user plan it looks great, albeit with an odd phone choice, the cost of individual lines in family plans is right around that range too tho... My parents have my sister in their AT&T plan and they pay like $47 or so for 10GB between them, on a larger network which has it's own benefits.

    Hopefully Google iterates on this some more, has potential.
    Reply
  • testbug00 - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    Yeah. It really needed to be $10 + $10 per GB (well, $1 per 100MB) on a Moto E/G. Or some other low end handset! Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    The entire press fails to explain to readers what a MVNO is and how things work.
    You can see everywhere that people fail to fully get it.
    With some digging you can even find some recent examples of data costs for MVNOs , it would help explain why 1GB of data is 10$ not 1$ and why Google (or anyone else) can't offer something at sane prices. Although the 20$ for voice and texts is way too much too.
    Reply
  • danbob999 - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    what other carrier offers $20 for unlimited voice and text, as well as 20¢/min roaming calls? And then which one of them bills only $1/100 MB for data, including while roaming? Reply
  • chenetic - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Have you heard of http://Ultra.me, an MVNO of T-mobile: $19/month + $5/500 MB. Pretty close but doesn't include roaming. Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Yeah i agree ,they are all terrible and my point was that the press should explain why since most seem to not get it that carriers set very high data prices and there just isn't any way around it as a MVNO.
    However, Google is more or less copying Republic Wireless and trying to offload on wifi as much as possible so for voice and SMS they could have easily done much better pricing wise.
    Reply

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