Google Project Fi No Contract Wireless!
Google Project Fi launched on April 22, 2015 as a no contract wireless
service with a grand vision. Google has stated that it's not
seeking to be a huge wireless provider, but rather it wants to show the
industry what wireless service can, and should be. It should
allow smartphones to connect reliably and at a much lower cost.
While many don't see Google's entry into this market as bizarre, and
feel the company is capable of taking on any and all tech-related
industries, others don't see the obvious connection. Let's
look at Project Fi by
breaking it down into key questions:
Why would Google want to be a provider?
The bulk of Google's revenue is still from ads, whether it's via Google
Search, or ads placed on millions of websites around the
There has been a massive increase in mobile usage in recent years, and
Google has taken strides to build its mobile search business as desktop
usage has declined. Smartphone technology and wireless
are so advanced at this point that the mobile experience really is
So what's the barrier to Google getting more eyeballs on its ads, and
people using its products and services? It's
maximize access, providing low cost and reliable service is a great way
to get more people accessing the Internet. Google is really
thinking of wireless access as a critical resource like water and
electricity that everyone should have access to.
In addition, only Google's own Nexus smartphones work on Google Project
Fi, so Google gets to control the entire user experience from the
hardware, to the operating system, to the wireless service.
That's certainly a recipe for getting users to engage in
most wanted response!
How does Google Project Fi provide more reliable access?
Google has not built its own wireless network. Although it
certainly afford to do so, there are already more than enough cell
towers around, and even more companies with thousands of Engineers
working all day to evolve and optimize these networks. Thus,
there's really no point in Google wasting its resources competing on
commodity wireless networks.
What Google has done is combine three different wireless networks, and
building in hardware and software that enables smartphones to
seamlessly switch between them. These networks are: Public
hotspots, the T-Mobile network, and the Sprint network.
these three options, Google can seam together expansive coverage, and
connect to the strongest signal as needed. No other service
provider has done this to date.
Yes, switching between cellular and WiFi is not new, and wireless
carriers often refer to that as "WiFi Calling", motivated by
reducing usage on their native networks to ultimately save money by
reducing the need to build out as much capacity. However,
together two major carrier networks (in this case T-Mobile &
Sprint) is new (outside of roaming). Offering service on
another carrier's network
makes Google a Mobile Virtual Network Operator or MVNO
Why would T-Mobile & Sprint want to partner with
You would think that if Google provides a much better service
experience, it would be competitive to their own networks,
The reality is that this is true! While Sprint &
still make money from the deal, if it means cannibalizing their own
customers or prospective customers, that would ultimately be a problem.
So why would they participate? The reality is that they're
a calculated risk that the exposure will strengthen the perception of
their network quality by having Google essentially endorse their
networks over AT&T and Verizon. In addition, they'll
these indirect customers that they may otherwise not get. All
that said, they did reveal that their contract allows for them to
renegotiate terms should Google Project Fi gain significant traction
and grow to a much larger than expected scale. The exact
that clause are not known, but the spirit of the clause certainly makes
a lot of sense.
What's in the Project Fi plan, and how much does it cost?
So now that you've bought into why Google launched Project Fi, and why
Sprint & T-Mobile are participating, how much is the
service? Since launch it has been very straightforward:
Are there other features you should know about?
- $20/month + taxes &
- No contract
- Unlimited domestic (U.S.)
talk and text
- Unlimited international texts
- WiFi tethering (i.e. mobile
- Low cost international calls
- Roaming in over 120 countries
- Plus: $10/GB for cellular
data (WiFi data is always free)
- Credit for unused cellular
A very distinctive feature about Google Project Fi is that your phone
number is tied to the service, and not directly to the phone
itself. What this means is that you can send and receive
and texts from other devices, including other smartphones, tablets, and
computers. If you've ever used Google Hangouts for texting or calling,
much the same principle, and an extremely convenient feature.
This feature was introduced
in October 2016, and allows you to add up to 5 additional lines/people
to your account for $15/line instead of $20. The account
owner can also monitor data usage by phone, assign a monthly data
allowance, and even pause data for a specific group member.
What does the phone cost?
This is really where the early stage of Project Fi started to break
when talking about access for all (i.e. afford-ability).
Google's own compatible Nexus smartphones have the hardware and
of supporting the three networks and "automagically" switching between
them. At launch the only option was to purchase a $649 Nexus
Fortunately, you can now get a Nexus for $199, which is
much more reasonable. There are options to get it from the
financing deals, however, you would need to fulfill those terms before
being able to switch to Google service. Also, you could opt
purchase a used Nexus from any number of online resources.
the options are limited, which is certainly a barrier to adoption for
those who want an iPhone, or flagship Samsung device.
There's no doubt that Google will rollout this capability to other
smartphones over time. With this approach Google can
test the service with early adopters, and iron out any issues before
making it available to more, and lower cost smartphones. This
strategy also allows them to ease into the market without creating
major panic amongst industry wireless carriers, including their own
partners. In other words, it will take them some time for
Fi to reach its true vision.
This all sounds great, but is it really a good deal?
The astute customer will already know that although Project Fi pricing
is very good, there are a number of other carriers (both large and
small) that offer similarly priced plans, particularly when you take
into considerations providers that are tax/fee inclusive.
said, none of them include crediting for unused data. In
for the most part they count on selling you data that they expect you
won't use up!
So, it's the price, the network switching, the unused data credit, and
access across devices all taken together that make the service unique.
OK, I want this service; how do I get it?!
At launch Google only offered the service by request only, which is
similar to how they launch other early programs by request and/or
referral (ex. Gmail). Thankfully, now anyone can activate the
service; simply visit the Project Fi Signup
There had been rumors of a Google MVNO wireless service for the better
part of two years prior to Project Fi being officially
I think the wait was worthwhile, and although only Nexus
available, they are solid, capable devices. I do
believe that this introduces a new paradigm that will spark additional
competition. Note that Google fully expects, and is counting
carriers copying its service. Will Project Fi achieve its
objectives? I believe it will, and I'm looking forward to
seeing this program evolve!