This article was published 9 years ago

Google launches Project Fi. What is it and how it won’t change the wireless industry

Google Nexus 6
Google Nexus 6 – Image credit: Flickr / Chris F

Google finally unveiled their plans today for a new cellular service called Google Fi with a simple billing plan and a network of three wireless networks: a Wi-Fi hotspot and 4G LTE service from Sprint and T-Mobile, whichever has the strongest signal. While the sounds of disruption are echoing around the country, this will not revolutionize the wireless industry because Google wants to keep the masses out and only allow a small number of subscribers to the network.

What makes Google Fi exciting is the plan. It only has one and you pay for the data you use.

The rate plan starts at $20 and it includes for unlimited talk and text. International texting is included in the unlimited plan. Add $10/month for each gigabyte of data you use (I.E. $10 for 1GB, $20 for 2 GB and so on). Data that hasn’t been used at the end of the month is credited to your billing account.

Why is the rate plan cheap? Because Google doesn’t own the cellular towers, they are being leased through Sprint and T-Mobile. Google can pass the savings on to the customer, which in why rate plans on AT&T and Verizon are higher.

What makes the plan so surprising is that you can use your phone – along with the data plan at much slower speeds – in over 120 countries and only pay 20 cents per minute for outgoing calls in the roaming-approved network of the visiting country. The phone will not work – except on Wi-Fi – if your in a non-approved country. So far the only places I could find where Fi will not work are Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cuba, Guernsey, Iran, North Korea and most of the African continent.

Afghanistan is an approved country will Fi will work.

The other part that has people screaming excitedly about project Fi is the network – or the combination of WiFi and cellular. Google Fi works on whichever has the strongest signal: Wifi, 4G LTE from Sprint or T-Mobile.

That’s where this won’t go very far. The technology is innovated but limited. This only works on Google’s Nexus 6 hardware and nothing else. Per the FAQ on Google Fi:

The Nexus 6 is the first smartphone that supports Project Fi’s network of networks. During Project Fi’s Early Access Program we plan to only support the Nexus 6.

So don’t expect the iPhone 6 plus to work with Google Fi. Which is why Google wants to keep the Fi network small and why this won’t be a spark that jolts the mobile industry that many people are hoping it will.