Tags: AT&T | Google | Project Fi | Wi-Fi

Google Takes to the Airwaves With Project Fi

By Wednesday, 22 April 2015 05:03 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Today’s big news: Google is now in the wireless phone business. To be precise, they are now a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) which is a wireless communications services provider that does not possess its own wireless radio spectrum or network infrastructure.

Instead, an MVNO like Google deals with existing mobile network operators (MNOs) to buy bulk access to network services sold at wholesale rates.

Google’s recently unveiled “Project Fi” is an attempt to provide a “fast, easy wireless experience” developed over the past two-and-a-half years in close partnership with carriers, hardware makers, and select users.

Initially, Google’s Fi runs solely on the Nexus 6 smartphone, developed in conjunction with Motorola. (One probable reason is that it supports no less than 12 LTE frequency bands.)

The Project Fi service — which has no service contract and no termination fees —  encompasses voice, text, international coverage in 120-plus countries , and Wi-Fi tethering, the latter enabling the Nexus 6 to act as a mobile hotspot (essentially a Wi-Fi router) to divvy up and furnish bandwidth and thus share network access with nearby computers, tablets, and other devices.

Indeed, in such a local wireless network scenario you can employ your online Google Hangout to place calls on any Hangout-enabled tablet or laptop — not just your phone. Lose your phone? Keep talking and texting on your laptop, tablet or other non-Fi device.

The service overlays (runs atop) Sprint and T-Mobile 4G LTE networks. As you use the service, your phone constantly tests the connection and switches between the two networks depending on which has the strongest signal. If 4G LTE service is not available, the system can revert to using lesser 3G and 2G signals.

As you commute-to-and-from work or otherwise move about the landscape, your phone can detect if it is near any one of more than a million free Wi-Fi hot spots that Google has determined to be fast and reliable and, if the signal is better, switch over (“hand-off”) to Wi-Fi instead.

For $20 a month you get basic voice, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage. Then you’re charged a flat $10 per month per GB for cellular data in the U.S. and abroad.

Google offers 1GB of data usage for $10 per month, 2GB for $20 per month, and 3GB is $30 per month. (There is no unlimited data option.) Thus, a 2GB plan would be $20 in addition to the initial $20 of basic services, which means you’ll be paying a total of $40.

Phone calls and text messages sent over Wi-Fi are free if you happen to be roaming in one of the 120-plus specified countries, otherwise, calls placed over a conventional cellular network are billed at 20 cents per minute. Data can sent in those same 120-plus countries at no extra charge, but your connection speeds there will be considerably reduced.

One major selling point is that Google requires you to merely pay for what you use, but in a unique way. Instead of, say, carrying over unused minutes (as is the case with some other carriers), you are credited monetarily for the full value of what you don’t use. If, for example, you pay $20 a month for 2GB but only use, say, 1GB during one month, you are credited $10 at the month’s end.

Of course, if you were to use an extra, say, 600 megabytes during that month, your data charge will be $26.

Google has just launched the Project Fi Early Access Program. Interested prospective users must request an invitation at fi.google.com to get on board.

Warning: They say they are only accepting a small number of people each week, and the whole project, in the words of Google’s Products Chief, Sundar Pichai, is not meant to blow AT&T and Verizon out of the water.

Instead, Project Fi is designed simply to demonstrate what innovations are possible and to put a few thumbscrews on the big carriers to follow suit.

Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential Computer Telephony Encyclopedia (2000), he was the chief technical editor of Harry Newton's Computer Telephony magazine (later retitled Communications Convergence after its acquisition by Miller Freeman/CMP Media) from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis — Click Here Now.


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Google’s recently unveiled “Project Fi” is an attempt to provide a “fast, easy wireless experience.” One major selling point is that Google requires you to merely pay for what you use, but in a unique way.
AT&T, Google, Project Fi, Wi-Fi
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 05:03 PM
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