Google today announced its entrance into the wireless service business, with the debut of Project Fi, a service that combines multiple cellular networks with Wi-Fi hotspots to offer “the best network wherever you go.”
As rumored back in January, Google is teaming up with both Sprint and T-Mobile for Project Fi, and the two carriers will provide the cellular service for Google’s initiative. With Project Fi service, customers will be able to connect to the fastest network at any given location, whether it’s Sprint LTE, T-Mobile LTE, or a Wi-Fi hotspot.
We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it’s Wi-Fi or one of our two partner LTE networks. As you go about your day, Project Fi automatically connects you to more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots we’ve verified as fast and reliable. Once you’re connected, we help secure your data through encryption. When you’re not on Wi-Fi, we move you between whichever of our partner networks is delivering the fastest speed, so you get 4G LTE in more places.
By positioning itself as an MVNO or mobile virtual network operator partnered with existing carriers, Google is able to provide reliable cellular service and its own pricing tiers without needing to build out its own infrastructure. Other well-known MVNO’s in the U.S. include Boost Mobile, FreedomPop, and Straight Talk.
Project Fi brings phone numbers to the cloud, letting users talk and text with their personal phone numbers on any phone, tablet, or computer, and it introduces a simplified pricing structure that’s easier to understand than most carriers’ complicated plans.
There’s a single plan that costs $20 per month for talk, text, and Wi-Fi tethering, plus an extra $10 per GB for cellular data in the U.S. and abroad. So a plan with unlimited talk and text with 3GB of data would be priced at $50. Google’s also only charging for data used, so customers who pay for 3GB and only use 1GB will get a refund.
Google is debuting a Project Fi early access program that’s available to customers who have a Nexus 6. According to Google, this is the first smartphone that supports the hardware and software necessary to work with Project Fi. Nexus 6 users can in areas where coverage is available can request access.
Google is the first major technology company to introduce its own wireless service, and it’s possible that other companies could follow in its footsteps. In the past, there were rumors suggesting Apple would take on the role of a mobile carrier, selling service directly to consumers, but in 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple did not need to be a carrier and would be better off focusing its efforts on making great devices.