Google has entered the mobile MVNO carrier field by launching a service dubbed Project Fi in the US. The search giant has tied up with Sprint and T-Mobile to use their network together with WiFi networks to offer voice calls and data. As of now the program is available on an invite only basis for users in certain areas of the US. Additionally the service is currently only compatible with the Motorola made Nexus 6.
How it works
According to Google its network will utilize the best network available in the area from among T-Mobile, Sprint and available WiFi hotspots for calls, text and data. The network will switch between providers seamlessly and automatically, and will secure user data through encryption. Google claims it has verified over a million free hotspots that are fast and reliable to provide this connectivity.
The network will switch to using 4G LTE in places that lack WiFi, or slower networks if 4G is unavailable. According to Google, the network can seamlessly transition from WiFi to cell networks even during an active call.
Interestingly, Google mentions that the phone number will ‘live in the cloud’, letting users route calls and texts to other secondary devices that has Hangouts instead. This feature should enable users to answer calls made to their phones using any device readily available at hand, rather than looking for their phones.
Pricing: As for pricing, Google offers a single plans with 24/7 customer support. The plan costs $20 a month for all the basics including talk, text, tethering and international roaming in 120 countries, in addition to $10 per GB for cellular data in the US and abroad. Interestingly, users can pay for what they use and are credited back unused data. For example a user can pay $40 for 4GB of data and end up using only 2.4GB of data. In this case Google will credit the user with $16 off on the next bill for the unused 1.6GB of data.
Roaming: Another interesting aspect of the project is that it costs nothing extra for roaming, although the service might be limited in other countries where T-mobile and Sprint do not have any coverage. However users will still be able make calls and send text messages using their phone numbers, over WiFi networks.
Competition: As of now, only Republic Wireless in the US offers a similar service. The carrier offers a ‘Hybrid Network’ that uses WiFi and switches to Sprint’s network when WiFi isn’t available. The project requires custom software to be installed on the phone and is only compatible with the Moto X (first and second gen), and the first gen Moto G and E. Republic Wireless offers its users WiFi only plans starting at $5 per month, although its plans including 3G data start at $25 per month.
Project Loon: Google’s Project Loon is a network of balloons which float at about 20 kilometres above in the stratosphere which will help in providing Internet access to the most remote corners of the world. Google had teamed up with telecommunications companies to share cellular spectrum which should enable people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. The company should be able to exploit its network of balloons (if it manages to develop such a network), to offer its carrier services at well.
Note that in February, the company mentioned it was looking to bring Project Loon to India by 2016. It said that it was working closely with governments across the world, including India’s, for covering ‘every inch of the earth’ with coverage from its balloons.