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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  • Khato - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Not certain what other carrier does it for $20 a month, but republic wireless does that for $10 a month if you don't care about cellular data. It's then $25 a month for unlimited talk, text, and 3G data - though there is a limit on roaming data.

    I definitely like seeing Google getting involved in this area though.
  • whiteiphoneproblems - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    My guess is they use tiers so that customers who do not want to pay overages will have a (self-imposed) "cap" -- and get a warning if they're approaching their limit, and/or reduced speeds after they hit the limit. But I don't know.

    I will also note that our current family plan on T-Mobile (US) seems, at a glance, to offer better rates than this ($65 for unlimited talk/text for 3 ppl; and $10 for 3GB of data per line) -- but there are obviously other variables involved. Cheers to Google, anyway; i'm sure this will be helpful to some, and hope it catches on.
  • whiteiphoneproblems - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    To clarify -- that's $10 for each line that has 3GB of data. Of course, unused data rolls over but is not "refunded" as with the Google plan.
  • soccerballtux - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    they're not doing it per 100MB because people are risk adverse; it's a psychology thing. Having to pay $40 but getting back $16 is way better than paying $20 but having to pay up to $40.
  • Flunk - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    That sounds like you're betting on people being bad at math.
  • thesavvymage - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Betting on people being risk averse and bad at math is absolutely a safe bet. I'd take that bet any day of the week if I were a business.

    People are much more likely to seek paying less now than they are to seek a future discount. Think of it like your car; if you had to pay every time you drove it, you'd probably drive less. But you'll still pump it up every 2 weeks for about the same daily price.
  • Impulses - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    People being risk averse and bad at math is pretty much the foundation of the current carrier model anyway!
  • alphasquadron - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    I would think that they are doing it because on a large scale, having all your customers pay $40 at the start of a month is a whole month that all that money sits in their interest bearing account.
  • darwinosx - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    It's not encrypted from Google thats for sure. Are they also going to give money back for all your personal data and activities they sell to advertisers?
  • menting - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Verizon does the same thing..Have they given anything back?

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